|An Open Letter to Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez|
Written by Justin Zeth (Contact & Archive) on July 25, 2007
I'm on your side. I would not dream in a million years of ever referring to you by such an asinine nickname as most other media types insist on slapping on you, unless perhaps this was one of the demands made by terrorists who had taken control of the local Dunkin' Donuts. I want you to know that I care enough about you that I've spent an upwards of ten minutes of my own personal time pondering the question of what you ought to do with your life. And I know no other nitwit sportswriter has ever done anything like that, right?¬†¬†
Seriously, though, I write this to you with your best interests at heart. I wanted to let you know that you still have a very clear opportunity to turn it all around, I mean, the whole thing. You still have a chance, if you play your cards right, to retire in 2015 or something as a national hero, a local god, by acclamation one of the very inner circle of the greatest baseball players who ever lived. Barring injury, you should be able not only to hold the all-time home run record by the time you retire, you should be able to blow the doors off of it.¬†¬†
Look, what those jackasses in the Raccoon Lodge are doing to you ain't right. You are one of the ten or so best players ever to play baseball. You know this. I know this. Most people who look at what you've done with any kind of objectivity know this. When you worked your way into New York, you had no idea just how insane the god worship of Derek Jeter was there, how he could never do any wrong, which led to the BS machine known as the New York media deciding you would make a convenient pi√Īata anytime the Yankees failed to win the World Series (and even then, if you hit .380/.490/.750 in the World Series and the Yankees won it in five games, some of them would write articles complaining that if only you hadn't struck out with Jeter on third base in the seventh inning of game 3, it would have been a sweep.)¬†¬†
Scott Boras is your agent. That's all the information anyone needs to know that all you really want out of your career is money, as much money as humanly possible. Scott Boras is very good at finding some sucker and procuring as much money as possible from them. I know that this is why you wanted to go to New York, not to win a World Series so you could be a champion, but to be part of a highly visible team, hopefully win a World Series with them, but the goal was always to increase your visibility and, naturally, your peripheral income (endorsements, merchandising).¬†¬†
But it didn't work. It's unlikely to ever work. No matter what happens, even if the Yankees go insane the rest of the year and win the World Series, and even if you hit 60 bombs and then ten more in the postseason, they will find a way to give Cap'n Derek all the glory and just brush you to the side. And that isn't going to aid your income. Getting away from Cap'n Derek is going to be vital to your overall earnings.¬†¬†
So you need to get away from the Yankees. It's not just that simple, though. Almost beyond doubt, if you actually go free agent, the Red Sox will give you very nearly as much money as the Yankees will offer, but it's a trap, just like the one you fell into in 2003. You're going to find this impossible to believe, but the Boston media is even worse than the New York media. You do not want to go there unless you want to continue to be blamed for everything going wrong in Boston up to and including the Big Dig.¬†¬†
Now, the third team that might offer you a boatload of money is the Orange County Angels of the Greater Los Angeles Area, or whatever. And that's actually a pretty attractive package, and I don't blame you if you go there: California weather, California girls, everyone's laid-back out there and isn't going to worry much about it if you hit into a double play to lose the ALCS or anything.¬†¬†
But even L.A. isn't the optimal place for you to go, even though you'll get a bigger contract and probably more peripheral income, too. Right now I'm going to appeal to your desire‚ÄĒI know you have one, somewhere‚ÄĒto be a hero, to be an idol, to be revered, to have nice articles written about you. And there's only one place to go where it's near a slam-dunk you'll be able to do that‚ÄĒif you're willing to leave numerous millions of dollars on the table in the short term, as a kind of gamble that you can make it all back and then some in the long term. Don't underestimate the tangible value of reputation.¬†¬†
Let me chart your expected income for you from each of the teams we're talking about:¬†¬†Yankees: 8 year, $200 million contract; not as much peripheral income as you'd expect.
Red Sox: 8 year, $180 million contract; mediocre peripheral income.
Angels: 8 year, $170 million contract; pretty strong peripheral income.
Mystery Team: 8 year, $150-$160 million contract; weak peripheral income, at least at first.¬†¬†Now, if the only thing in the world you're interested in is making lots of money and making it right now, it's very clear that you're going to re-up with the Yankees, because they're going to give you the most money. No question about that. But if you're interested in turning your entire public perception around 180 degrees, going within the course of a few years from Public Villain to National Icon, you need to sign with the Chicago Cubs.
¬†Now, I know the Cubs just gave 8/140 to Alfonso freakin' Soriano, which means by comparison that you ought to be worth 15/550 or something, but this is an issue where there's just oodles to gain by setting aside your pride and doing 8/150 or 8/160, then being introduced at a press conference and saying, ‚ÄúThe Yankees were offering significantly more money, but there are more important things than the size of the contract. The Cubs are compensating me well, and I wanted very much to come to Chicago and be a major part of a world champion Cubs team.‚ÄĚ¬†
Boom. Just like that, you're a hero in Chicago. Really. The Cubs haven't won a World Series for one hundred freaking years. Neither have the Rockies, of course, but the difference is that the Cubs have been around since the Civil War. You say that at a press conference announcing your signing, and Cubs fans will be laying their coats on the ground so you won't get your Reeboks wet walking over mud puddles.¬†¬†
And that's before you actually play the games. You're going to hit 50-plus bombs this year despite playing in a stadium that's really hurting your offense. Do you know what it would be like to play half your games in Wrigley Field? Statistically, I mean? You'd be able to hit 50 bombs in your sleep. You'd probably hit 60 a time or two. A typical year for you as a Chicago Cub would be something like .320/.410/.650 with 52 home runs and, I don't know, 155 RBI or something. Oh, and you'd be moving back to shortstop, where your defense wouldn't be any worse than Cap'n Derek's.¬†¬†
Barry Bonds is going to finish the year with 762 home runs or so and then retire. Playing in Wrigley, you'll have caught up to him in five years. In case you've not had time to read any newspapers lately, Barry Bonds is a Bad Guy. Barry Bonds is responsible for every reprehensible thing every baseball player has ever done, except for that time you girly-slapped the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's hand. You think the media doesn't like you? The media hates Barry Bonds. The media wants to kill Barry Bonds. You know what that means? That means that whoever takes the home run record away from Barry Bonds is going to be, as far as the media is concerned, an immediate candidate for sainthood. You have no idea how huge the media's going to make the story when someone closes in on Bonds' record. You want to be in on this. And you want to be doing it in a Cubs uniform, because the Cubs are the team everyone loves. Sammy Sosa has always been a jackass, but he was a national hero for years, and why? Because he was a lovable Cub, that's why.¬†¬†Anyway, even if you stay a Yankee for the rest of your career, there's a pretty strong chance you'll track Bonds down anyway, but you know, there's no guarantee of it. You can't expect more than 40 bombs a year playing your home games at Yankee Stadium, and you know, as you get deeper into your thirties, it gets harder to hit home runs, unless you're sticking needles in your butt, which I know you are not. Wrigley Field makes your eventual holding the record much more of a sure thing. Not just a sure thing, but if you play the rest of your career as a Cub, you're going to blow away the record and establish a new one that won't be broken... well, ever. You could possibly reach 900 home runs. As primarily a shortstop.¬†¬†
Is this sounding good yet? I'm not done. Remember what I said about the Cubs not winning a World Series in one hundred freaking years? You probably are already aware of this, but despite the fact that your career postseason battling line beats Derek Jeter's up and steals its lunch money, the media, which doesn't care about those newfangled numbers, insists you're the worst choke artist in the history of choking, now that the NFL rigged up Peyton Manning's ring. But, ohhhh, is this a sweet way to stick it in the media's face: Lead the Chicago freaking Cubs to the world championship. There is absolutely no way anyone's ever going to say a mean thing about your postseason performance ever again. You don't even have to necessarily play well, by your standards, in the postseason; if the Cubs win the World Series and you're on the team, you'll go down in history as a first-rate playoff hero. If you go gangbusters in the playoffs‚ÄĒwhich, remember, is likely since you'll be playing in Wrigley Field half the time‚ÄĒand the Cubs win the World Series, you might be elected Benevolent Ruler of the Free World right there on the spot. The sky's the limit.
You stay in New York and there's a good chance, somewhere in the next few years, the Yankees will win a World Series, maybe two. And what does that get you, personally, Mr. Rodriguez? The Yankees are supposed to win the World Series every year, so very little extra credit is given to anyone. So the answer is, it gets you nowhere at all, unless you really, really enjoy watching everyone in the world fawn over Derek Jeter. In fact, you'll see articles about how the world championship is nice, but these Yankees with Alex Rodriguez on them just don't measure up to those great Scott Brosius/Chad Curtis teams. Hell, you should be doing everything in your power to stop Derek Jeter from winning a World Series ever again. Wouldn't it be great if in 2009, the Chicago Cubs happened to beat the New York Yankees in the World Series, with Alex Rodriguez unanimously winning the Series MVP Award? Aren't you just salivating thinking about it?¬†¬†
So you have a pretty clear choice here: You can take all the money and run right now, or you can leave some of it on the table for the sake of the near-certainty of becoming a beloved national icon and getting the adulation and respect you've always deserved. I leave it to you.¬†¬†Your friend,
¬†Justin ‚ÄúL.‚ÄĚ Zeth I, esq.