Mythbusters: Joba and A-Rod Edition

Every so often, a characterization of a player made by a handful of fans or media members takes on a life of its own, spreading with reckless abandon until most fans believe that unsupported conclusions are incontrovertibly true. That is how you end up with people claiming that Jesus Montero has a bad attitude, or believing that nobody but the ballboy wants to throw to Jorge Posada. Two of my least favorite chestnuts involve Joba Chamberlain’s work ethic and A-Rod’s general impact in the clubhouse. Joba has constantly been assailed from all corners for being lazy and entitled, as people often throw the “too much success too soon” line in his direction. Regarding Alex, the old line about him was that having him in the clubhouse created a 24+1 attitude, and that he only looked out for himself.

Today, a handful of stories dispelled these myths. On Joba, we have Joel Sherman:

What is not possible, at least for now, is sending Chamberlain to the minors for two major reasons: 1) The Yanks feel it would be a terrible message to bust somebody from main set-up man all the way to Scranton in one move, so they will try to fix him outside the eighth inning and 2) They do not believe Chamberlain is failing because of an attitude problem. Yankee officials actually consider Chamberlain a hard worker. In other words they are not looking at this how they viewed a situation with Melky Cabrera in 2008. That season the Yanks thought Cabrera had become lazy and that was a factor in his struggles, so they did demote him in mid-August to Triple-A.

Will all the claims that Joba is just a fat entitled kid coasting on his success in 2007 disappear? Of course not. But they should, because the Yankees know a lot more about Joba’s work ethic than you and I do. My advice: the next time you find yourself reaching for the “entitled” and “lazy” and “ten cent head” bullcrap, just stop.

In regards to A-Rod, Ben Reiter at SI had some fantastic quotes:

“I can only speak for the last two years, but he’s been a great teammate,” says CC Sabathia, who spent one of his first days as a Yankee two years ago standing off to the side in one of his trademark many-XL t-shirts, watching his new teammate conduct his PED-use-admitting press conference, and probably wondering what he’d gotten himself into. “I know he cares a lot about the younger guys, teaching them and talking to them. Him and [Robinson] Cano are really close — he’s always talking to him. He tells guys what they need to be told, but he doesn’t put himself out there and draw attention to it.”

Last October, when I asked catcher Francisco Cervelli which of his teammates had most helped him transition from a .233-hitting minor leaguer to a rookie big leaguer who batted .298 and seamlessly filled in for an injured Jorge Posada, his answer was as quick as it was surprising. “A-Rod,” he said. “He helps me with everything — everything. I learn so many things from him, calling the game, offensively, defensively, game situations, everything. He’s the man. Maybe he saw at the beginning that I want to work, I want to play, and he wanted to help me. I feel lucky to have him.”

Chad Jennings added the following:

Several weeks ago, Andy Pettitte was talking about Alex Rodriguez and said this: “He can tell me almost every pitch I’ve thrown throughout the course of a game… He’s always in the game. His head’s up. He’s always prepared. That’s why he’s such a great player.”

Last night, Rodriguez said this: “I chased in the first inning, a slider down, but Westbrook had good stuff. He had us off balance all day. With the exception of a 3-2 fastball away to Jorge, and I think it was a 1-0 changeup to Granderson, he didn’t make many mistakes.”

Alex is far from perfect, and I am sure that there are times that he is a distraction. But on balance, he seems to be a very good teammate and, from the quotes in the Reiter piece, it is clear that he has become a leader and example for younger players. So what do we have in A-Rod? A leader who is always prepared and has his head in the game. Next time someone rips on Alex for being a constant distraction and a clubhouse issue, point out these quotes. The public perception of Alex as entirely selfish and self-centered is just plain wrong.

0 thoughts on “Mythbusters: Joba and A-Rod Edition

  1. Fitting people into a box is almost always convenient. Especially when that dialog is used to justify your thoughts/feeling regardless if it is grounded in reality. People want to believe A-Rod is a d%ck because it justifies their jealously over his contract and likewise with Joba they seem him not succeeding and make up that he is lazy.

  2. Great stuff.

    It’s good to dispel some of the nonsense myths that people with influence (read: beat writers, national reporters) peddle to fit their own agenda. The more the rumors are peddled, the more people believe them. The more people believe them, the more every bit of information gets fit into the preexisting “theoretical” frame created for them. For example, ARod looks like a diva watching his home runs, but Swisher is a cool dude just admiring his handiwork. Sabathia is just a big-boned guy, but Joba is fat, lazy and entitled. Real analysis requires more serious thinking, more legwork, more of what Moshe has done here.

    • I’d even add, at the risk of inviting some ridiculous race flame war, that people run the risk of doing the same thing with guys like Cano or Melky. i.e. “Cano and Melky are lazy and they don’t care, look at them joking around and refusing to learn English, they obviously don’t care about trying”. I’m not accusing anyone in particular of being racist, but it’s another example of how a preexisting narrative could drive people to interpret subsequent facts in a particular manner.

      • From the Sherman article:

        Yankee officials actually consider Chamberlain a hard worker. In other words they are not looking at this how they viewed a situation with Melky Cabrera in 2008. That season the Yanks thought Cabrera had become lazy and that was a factor in his struggles, so they did demote him in mid-August to Triple-A.

          • It wasn’t a myth in Melky’s case, and people dismissed that at the time and were proved wrong.

            Sherman’s report carries little weight with me, given the timing. Were just a few days from the trade deadline, taking a report like this on its face is just silly. What does anyone expect the Yanks to say? “Joba’s a nice kid, but he’s fat and lazy. You want him for Soria?”

          • Again, not my point. You could pick a dozen different narratives created out of whole cloth and propagated to serve a particular agenda. But I think you know what I’m saying.

          • I do, and generally agree with that. But the tone of this piece was particularly provocative, and is simply wrong by things I’ve heard from people connected to the team. I loved Mo’s piece yesterday, but this one really missed the mark.

            Now I also understand that people say lots of things, some of them have agendas. But even throwing that out just look at Joba. Does he look like a chiseled athlete to anyone? Are we supposed to believe his fat face and jiggling midsection don’t exist because Joel Sherman writes something 4 days before the trade deadline?

          • He doesn’t look any bigger than he did in 2008, and he’s no bigger than scores of pitchers. CC, to name one. He’s fat, but not obese, and he’s never been a thin boy. I never saw a lack of work ethic, always thought it was a meme developed to explain his struggles, and Sherman provided the icing on the cake.

          • @ Steve S

            You might disagree with Moshe, or Joel Sherman for that matter, but I don’t think there’s any evidence that this piece is “simply wrong”. If there is, I would certainly love to hear it.

          • Doesn’t sound like Sherman is getting this from a faceless scout. He’s around the team plenty. I’d be slow to dismiss what he says about how the team views a player. I don’t love his analysis, but he’s shown himself to be a good reporter.

          • I agree that Joel’s a good reporter, but I think taking a step back and considering the timing would be well advised. Joel might have bought himself a scoop by running this piece (if a trade is made) that’s generally how these things work. Also, note that Joel simply relays what ‘the Yanks believe’ not what he thinks himself. This is his blog (not the news section) so he’s free to opine all day if he chooses. He opted not to.

          • Right, that’s my point: he’s reporting what the team feels. I’ve seen nothing to tel me otherwise. The timing isn’t suspuscious to me at all, because Joba just lost his job.

    • I would also add that I studied a lot of postcolonial and french high theory in college and love talking about discourses and narratives, which also probably explains my tendencies to start with small, granular data samples and build out theories and conclusions from there. Narratives are dangerous things.

  3. I really don’t see how a guy Joba’s age with that body can be a ‘hard worker’. I don’t know if CC is either, but a guy in his early 20’s with that build isn’t working hard on physical conditioning. I doubt that boomer Wells or Mickey Lolich were hard workers. I also doubt that very many Yankee officials see him as hard workers.

    • I think if they didnt see him as a hard worker, he wouldnt have been handed the 8th inning this year, and would be in the minors at this point. I have no trouble believing that he works at his craft. I have a problem with just looking at a guy’s body type and drawing conclusions about his work ethic.

      • CC wasn’t exactly the trimmest fellow at Joba’s age either. I saw him at a couple of games when the Indians were in Cincinnati, sitting in the box seats behind the first base dugout, and he was a big, BIG, man.

    • If we’re gonna go with the body type argument to determine if someone’s a hard worker, then I’m going to say that Brett Gardner and Ramiro Pena are obviously not hard workers. I mean, just look at how skinny they are! It’s clear that they’re not hitting the weight room enough to make themselves stronger which would make them better players! That’s how you do it, right?