Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The new Jet mess, the A-Rod fallout

Messy few days in New York sports. Let's go in order of actual team impact and in reverse order of caterwauling:

(1) This morning Brett Favre's agent told the Jets that Favre would retire. The Jets are now without a legitimate QB for next year. Of course, Favre's immediate predecessor is with the Dolphins -- the AFC East champions of 2008. So the Jets had to trade a mid-level draft pick, release their starting QB, obtain a season's worth of not-quite-good-enough QB play that left them two games short of the playoffs and now have only Kellen Clemens as a potential starter for 2009. All this after guaranteeing vast sums on free agents in the 2008 offseason. The best thing the Jets have going for them now is that their failure to reach the playoffs means they have a chance at Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez in the draft (Stafford is the least likely to fall to the Jets' pick). An expensive and rudderless team for 2009.

(2) A-Rod is still a Yankee. And despite the insane commentary that includes suggesting the Yanks cut him loose and eat the $270M they owe him, he will remain a Yankee. And that's ok. A-Rod is one of the hardest working players in the game, he produces (often at astounding levels), and that's what a top talent should do. The steroid use is five years in the past (no positives since 2003) and predates his Yankee days, in which he's hit 208 homers with half his games in the Stadium -- no friend to righties.

He did the right thing in coming (mostly) clean in his interview with Gammons Monday. He has to face the fallout. He has to handle the situation as well as he can. And he'll do what he does -- play hard, produce large numbers, and hopefully bonk less in clutch situations. He's still a Hall of Fame player.

The Steroids Era in baseball is like the swingin' 70s -- full of excess, largess, illegal activity, immorality, and abject idiocy. But baseball doesn't really care because its revenues rose so high that the negative publicity is just a cost of doing business that is easy to absorb. Baseball press is now marked by poseur moralizers who easily forgive NFL transgressions (Shawne Merriman) and marveled at the sudden Brady Anderson and Luis Gonzalez power surges that resulted in these two wiry outfielders popping 50+ homers in 1996 (Anderson - 50) and 2001 (Gonzalez - 57), even though neither would reach even 30 thereafter.

Either the whole era is a farce or it's marked by performance aberrations that reconfigure the requirements for career accolades like the Hall of Fame (and which make Pedro Martinez's 1997-2000 seasons even more outstanding). I say the latter -- the performance enhancers may have improved performances by 10-20% for the top hitters and pitchers, not by 100% as they likely did for less elite players. A-Rod is a 40-homer per year man even in the Stadium without the juice. McGwire is a 50+ homer threat even off the andro. Bonds was a Hall of Famer by 1998, when he allegedly began juicing. So the moralizing needs to stop.

And Gene Orza needs his comeuppance.

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