“FLASH! NYT reveals exclusively that A-Rod's contract is a problem for team. Next up: ‘Lindbergh makes it to Paris!’”—Veteran news commentator Jeff Greenfield, March 31, 2013 tweet, on the New York Times’ front-page article of the same day on Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez
The derisive reaction of PBS’ Jeff Greenfield toward David Waldstein’s piece in The Gray Lady on Alex Rodriguez’s contract with the New York Yankees is absolutely on target. I can’t recall such a wasted amount of front-page space since Patrick Healy’s analysis of the relationship between Bill and Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the 2008 Presidential campaign.
The A-Rod piece bore all the same marks of that earlier piece: A failed attempt to discover the truth about something everyone wanted to know. The Healy article, it seems, was motivated by the desire to know the state of a marriage that, the decade before, had survived an extramarital affair and the resulting impeachment effort. In the matter of A-Rod, two things were on everyone’s minds: 1) how the Yankees got into this mess in the first place, and 2) how they proposed to get out of it.
If the Healy piece searched for a rat, it came up with a mouse: the news that the Clintons’ union involved a “complicated candidacy”—entirely predictable, given their past history. Evidence to this effect: the separate travel schedules they maintained—something that nearly all Presidential candidates and their spouses maintain at one point or another, in an effort to maximize their efforts on the road.
Similarly, Waldstein turned up the fact that the camp of A-Rod’s former agent, Scott Boras, had been stunned when, after a presentation about how much he could make as a free-agent, the third baseman stunned everyone by saying he would rather stay with the Yankees. Nor is it exactly news that, in the wake of explosive allegations about A-Rod and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs)—in 2009, and again more recently—the team had looked unsuccessfully high and low in his contract for something that could help them void the whole thing, to no avail so far.
The article could have presented some information on how the Yankees' Tampa brain trust, in renegotiating A-Rod’s contract, failed to include enough legal protection to cover themselves in case the slugger was found to have used PEDs—the same dumb mistake they made with Jason Giambi a few years before. It could have analyzed the fate of other teams, burdened with similar albatross contracts. But nothing doing.
You can judge the value of a news article pretty simply, I think: does it tell me something I didn’t know or could not have guessed before? The A-Rod article fails on that simple count. It’s a huge swing-and-a-miss from a source that many people, based on past performance, had come to expect more from. In this way, it mirrors the enigmatic subject it did nothing to reveal.
(The photo shows Alex Rodriguez on at Ameriquest Field on May 22, 2004, toward the start of his usually tortured tenure with the Bronx Bombers. My hunch is that, on this occasion, he grounded out--failing, once again, to deliver in the clutch. If only the Yankees had this kind of problem with him now...)