Bryan Joiner

Why then I

Tag: alex rodriguez

Imaginary Conversation With: A-Rod

(A-ROD is staring me down in the middle of Times Square)

A-ROD: …

ME: …

A-ROD: …

ME: …

A-ROD: … well? Aren’t you going to congratulate me?

ME: On what?

A-ROD: (scoffs) Number 600.

ME: No.

A-ROD: Why not?

ME: Because I don’t care.

A-ROD: I thought you loved baseball!

ME: I do.

A-ROD: This is a big deal!

ME: No, that—(points at guy on a unicycle who is juggling bowling pins on fire with a huge snake wrapped around his neck)—is a big deal.

(you’ll have to imagine the fire, snake parts)

A-ROD: Whoa. How do you think he does that?

ME: Practice—

A-ROD: (completely ignoring me, bellowing) HEY GUY! HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

(dude ignores him)

A-ROD: (nonplussed, smiling) What’s his problem?

ME: He seems a little busy—

A-ROD: (louder this time) HEY DUDE! HOW. DO. YOU. DO. THAT?

(GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS starts to wobble, does not look at A-Rod as he starts to talk)

GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS: Looks like we… (whoosh, whoosh) … have an excited little boy … (whoosh, whoosh) … in our audience today. Where are you from, little boy?

A-ROD: (completely unaware that he’s being spoken to)

ME: Alex! It’s rude not to answer someone when they’re talking to you. Tell the man where you’re from.

A-ROD: (sheepish) I’m from, uh, New York City, sir.

GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS: (smiles, eyes still concentrating on task) New York City? Do you hear that, ladies and gentleman? From right here! And tell me, little boy, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A-ROD: (shy)

ME: (in a low, reassuring voice) Go ahead, Alex. Answer the man’s question.

A-ROD: I want to play baseball!

GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS: A baseball player! That’s great! Mets or Yankees?

A-ROD: (gaining confidence) … Yankees, sir.

GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS: The Yankees! Now tell me, who’s your favorite player?

A-ROD: (quietly) Derek Jeter.

GUY ON UNICYCLE JUGGLING FLAMING BOWLING PINS: Derek Jeter! He’s my favorite too! But I also like Jorge Posada. And Mariano Rivera. And Mark Teixeira. And CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes. What a team!

A-ROD: (almost a whisper) Yeah they’re good

(There is a commotion as all the pins fall to the ground and there is screaming because they’re still on fire)

GUY ON UNICYCLE NO LONGER JUGGLING PINS: Holy shit, you’re Alex Rodriguez.

A-ROD: Yep.

GUY ON UNICYCLE NO LONGER JUGGLING PINS: You hit 600 yet?

A-ROD: (beaming) Yes! I did it yesterday. (pause) Can I have your snake?

GUY DESCENDING UNICYCLE: No way, he’s a part of my act. This is how I make my living, bro.

A-ROD: Would you take… (reaches into pocket, counts cash, counts it again) $5,000?

GUY WHO JUST SOLD SNAKE: Yes. Yes I would.

(In a clean motion, swipes cash from A-Rod and drapes snake around his neck)

GUY MOVING AWAY QUICKLY: Feed it hamsters… or chicken… once a week… (he picks up the unicycle and bolts)

A-ROD: Sucker.

ME: What?

A-ROD: Those were counterfeit bills.

ME: You carry fake money around?

A-ROD: Oh sure. Everyone thinks it’s real. How do you think I got this suit?

(it is a nice suit)

ME: Wow. What a dick.

A-ROD: I’m not as dumb as everyone thinks I am.

A-ROD: Let’s go to the M&M’s store.

ME: I don’t think they’ll let you bring that in—

A-ROD: I said (him and the snake look me straight in the eyes) let’s go to the M&M’s store

ME: (terrified) … okay …

(NYPD officer approaches)

COP: Hey you got a permit for that thing?

A-ROD: You bet.

(He reaches into his wallet and winks at me before turning to the cop and “paying him off.” Afterward we go say hi to the Naked Cowboy [they’re apparently friends] and go to the M&M’s store, where A-Rod gets sick of the snake and hands it to me and bolts. I’m the guy who has it when the cops show up and they’re about to arrest me for it when the Naked Cowboy—with whom they’re familiar—backs up my crazy story. He then demands $20, which he double-checks against the light because he “know(s) A-Rod’s game.” He says if I give him $5 more he’ll sing “America.” I decline, and he starts singing it anyway.)

Dwyane Wade and LeBron James

It’s good to be Dwyane Wade.

Ten years ago, in the Major League Baseball offseason to end all offseasons, there was a bumper crop of free agents which included three huge names—Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Mike Mussina—and a bunch of smaller ones who followed them like fish follow whales, gobbling up the extra money of the boom days. If the 1998 home run chase “saved” baseball, the 2000 free agent grab was the MLB Network precursor to baseball as a reality show.

That winter, my colleagues at the college newspaper and I refreshed ESPN.com’s free agent tracker once every, oh, three minutes—and only that long because it took about two and a half minutes to load. Every player on the market was listed, and the logos of the interested teams would be applied or removed next to their names based on the news of the day. Rodriguez’s page was the most volatile, reflecting his position as the most singularly heralded free agent of all time: a player with the skills of no other, in the prime of his career, offering his services to the highest bidder. Ramirez’s free agency period was not without its fanfare, but it was a fraction of that of Rodriguez, who, with agent Scott Boras, milked A-Rod’s numbers for everything they were worth, most famously creating a 73-page booklet (link at bottom of page) stating his earning potential based on his already legendary position in the history of the game. The opening page blares: “Alex Rodriguez is the best shortstop in Major League Baseball history at age 24.”

This year’s NBA free agent class has a remarkably similar constitution. For Mike Mussina we have Chris Bosh, the reliably very, very good-but-not-great star whose star gets brighter by association with the others; for Ramirez, already a Hall of Fame-caliber player, we have the legend-in-the-making Dwyane Wade; and for Rodriguez we have LeBron James, the once-in-a-generation supernova of a player, peddling his wares at the peak of their power.

To the degree the Rodriguez and James situations are different, there are two practical considerations that would suggest James has a better chance of choosing to stay in Cleveland than A-Rod had of staying in Seattle; one, he is from the area, and two, the Cavaliers can offer him more money than any other team. That we don’t know, on the eve of the official free agency period, if James is staying or going indicates that this isn’t simply a financial decision. I don’t know what’s in the man’s heart, and I won’t guess, but I’ve tended to agree with the excellent writing of Cleveland Frowns on the subject. Frowns says that all things being equal, it’s in LeBron’s best interests to stay—while acknowledging that none of us know if all things are equal in LeBron’s world. Only LeBron knows that.

All we know is that LeBron courts attention the same way Rodriguez did, which is to say, insatiably… and we know that Wade hasn’t. I’m sure he’s courted suitors in some way, but his exposure is considerably less than LeBron’s, and he has merely been, at worst, the league’s third best player over the last five years. He’s won a title, and nearly won a college title on a team full of players whose greatest skill was standing around and watching him, mouth agape, like everyone else.

I’m not saying Dwyane Wade is showing us how to be the best free agent; to each his own. I’m saying that, compared to LeBron, Wade has handled his business like just that: business. It might be different if he was deciding to leave the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team, rather than join it. but we only have the situation we have. The whole world is watching LeBron’s every move, looking for clues. I’m watching D-Wade.

Just Another Friendly Reminder…

To check out our new Red Sox blog, Me and Pedro Down By the Schoolyard.

Also, if you haven’t read my A-Rod essay, The Huckster, this will be my last shout-out for it.

And just for fun, we’ll dig into the vault for an old column of mine from the Queens Chronicle, apropos during election season.