Monday, February 12, 2007

The A-Rod Kobayashi Maru

Yeah, that's a title that calls me out as a nerd, but what can we do? One of the things that's happened during my absence is that Alex Rodriguez started touring behind his children's book, Out of the Ballpark. It appears that one book tour appearance was disrupted by Rodriguez's (or his publisher's) public relations people, when the event was swamped by sports press intent on asking Rodriguez about the out-clause in his contract, rather than about his book. According to Mike Lupica, this led to Rodriguez's Today Show appearance being canceled, when the same media people wanted to make contract talk off-limits for his promotional appearance there.

Now, this type of gaffe is what we've come to expect from Rodriguez, whose public relations people should not only be fired, but exiled to other countries. But the guy shoots himself in the foot. Instead of coming up with a simple, neutral answer to the question (like "I'm happy in New York and happy with my contract. But I'm not going to make decisions a year in advance, just the same way that I wouldn't expect the Yankees to exercise a contract option until it's time for them to do so") his people are trying to preempt the questions, which makes him look like a wimp who can't deal with pressure.

That's without mentioning the book itself, which sounds like the punch line to a dozen meanspirited sportswriter jokes. Here's the publisher's description:

Before he hit 400 home runs...
Before he was named
American League MVP...
Before he was AROD to
millions of fans...
He was Alex.

Just a kid who wanted to play baseball more than anything else in the world.

Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez has drawn on his own childhood experiences to create this exciting picture book. It's the story of a boy named Alex who knows what it's like to swing at a wild pitch or have a ball bounce right between his legs. Alex is determined not to let his mistakes set him back—even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn to work on his hitting and fielding before school each day!

Full of the spirit of determination and joy in the game that put AROD in a league of his own, Out of the Ballpark is a gift from a great sports hero to every young player who dreams of becoming a star.

Dude, we keep trying to help you, but you keep leaving yourself wide open...

Getting back to the nerdriffic title of this piece, in Star Trek (specifically, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, one of my favorite movies ever) the Kobayashi Maru scenario was a simulation given to trainees, in which the trainee faced superior enemy forces there was no way to beat. The idea was to see how they handled losing. Notionally, Alex Rodriguez has experience losing--the ALCS in 2004, the ALDS the last two years, last-place finishes with the Rangers. But his brand of "losing" usually carries more accomplishment than even the best of "winners"--even in an "off" season of 2006, he still performed like a star player.

Now, the twist that Rodriguez's relationship with the media has taken shows us that he's facing the No-Win Scenario. Up until now, the assumption was that all it would take for Rodriguez to be accepted in New York would be for him to get hot for a few weeks in October. Now, even if Rodriguez is the World Series MVP, the story will be that he's a greedy player, who only "turned it on" when there was a payday on the line. The champagne won't be dry in his hair before he gets the first question about his contract's out clause.

What's worse, let's say that Rodriguez doesn't exercise his out clause after this season. He has similar rights after 2008 and 2009. As always, I wish Alex the best, but I'm not holding out too much hope, here.

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