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.