You can read a lot about Alex Rodriguez today. Some stories are going to paint him as a good guy, some just make him look weird and some will paint him as a jerk.
This one is going to fall into that latter category.
I have no doubts that Alex can be all three. I think the best of us can have bad moments and I think the worst likely have some redeeming features (except, of course, for Roger Clemens).
Much of the time, I think people are too rough on Alex. Joe Torre wrote a book that’s main purpose seemed to be to tell us what an awful person Alex was and how wonderful Derek Jeter is and will always be.
Anyway, the story at hand.
Back on May 30, 2007, the Blue Jays were playing the third game of a three game series with the Yankees. The good guys had won the first two games. Both teams were a long way back from the AL East leading Red Sox, who got off to a great start that year. The Jays were in third place 12 games back. The Yankees were last, 14.5 games back.
Starting the top of the ninth inning, the Jays were behind 6-5. Scott Downs came in to pitch and had a rough time. He gave up a couple of hits, including a run scoring single ARod, to put us down 7-5. With runners on first and second, and two out, Gibby (who looked much younger back then, but then didn’t we all) brought in Brian Wolfe to face Jorge Posada. It would be Wolfe’s major league debut.
That brings us to the moment that caused many of us to hate Rodriguez forever.
To set things up a little more. Howie Clark was called up that day. He replaced injured Troy Glaus on the roster and at third base. Clark was a 33-year old journeyman infielder. He had played 99 major league games, spread out over the five previous seasons, to that point. As he was called up that day, he didn’t have much experience with John McDonald, who was playing shortstop that day.
Wolfe got Posada to hit an easy popup and Howie was camped out under it.
That’s were it got interesting.
Rodriguez, running the bases behind Clark, yelled or said something. Alex says he said ‘Ha’. Who knows? Who cares? Whatever it was, it was a pretty classless move. Clark, thinking McDonald was calling him off, peeled off from the ball and it fell. A run would score. Wolfe, likely rattled, would give up another hit, and 2 more runs would score, before he finally got out of the inning.
The ‘ha’ or whatever it was cost the Jays 3 runs and gave Wolfe a 27.00 ERA, after his first MLB appearance. The Jays would lose 10-5.
Let’s embed the video:
So Clark did what he should do if called off by his shortstop. We really don’t want our fielders colliding. Ask Troy Tulowitzki. I would think baseball players wouldn’t want the other teams doing things like that because it would set up the chance of an injury. We don’t want to see more collisions.
Whatever Rodriquez said, it was scummy thing to do. Messing with someone that’s trying to gets himself some major league service time, who was never going to sign a $200 million contract, seems something that should be beneath a player of ARod’s stature.
I’m sure I never saw Johnny Mac that angry any other time. I can understand it. McDonald was a good guy. I’d imagine he saw it as a total violation of ‘the code’. I’m sure John could emphasize with Clark. He could understand how hard it is to get that major league job as a utility infielder. Seeing someone that had it made take advantage of Clark, well, I can understand him wanting to punch Alex’s lights out.
Rodriguez? Well, he seems to go through life like a child with no impulse control. If it seems like a good idea at the time, do it. I’m sure there wasn’t any active thought that ‘hey this guy is new to the league let’s screw with him’. I think there is more impulse than thought with Alex.
It really wasn’t necessary. The Jays were down by 2 in the ninth. Add on runs are nice and all but the Yankees were very likely to win without the extra runs. But, again, I’m sure none of that was taken into account by Rodriguez.
For some reason I tend to think that being a jerk is less of a crime if the game is on the line than when it’s just for couple of extra runs in a meaningless game.
Bluebird Banter was pretty young at the time, but Achengy wrote about that play (or wrote about another writer’s response to the play). The GameThread wasn’t exactly over populated, but people weren’t happy: