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October 04, 2005

Alex Rodriguez and the “Code of Honor�

Originally published at the Batter's Box.

In L.A. Confidential, Captain Dudley Smith tells Sergeant Jack Vincennes, “I doubt you’ve ever taken a stupid breath.� Most of the time, Alex Rodriguez is like Vincennes, if far less interesting. A perfect corporate ballplayer, seemingly incapable of an extemporaneous word, definitely incapable of adding excitement to the fine array of electronics sold by Radio Shack.

But on occasion, Rodriguez takes a stupid breath. In 2004, Rodriguez offered his infamous “[me] and 24 kids� remark about the Rangers’ perpetual losing efforts. His comments were startlingly uncharacteristic and factually ignorant, as Texas had signed several other big-name, big dollar free agents during his three-year tenure. Alas, almost all of them were terrible, injury prone, or both.

Rodriguez took Breath Number Two yesterday. On the last day of the regular season, Texas gave Alfonso Soriano his first day off since mid-July. Buck Showalter then pulled Michael Young, Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock in the third inning after all three reached base. The Rangers played the rest of the game with Adrian Gonzalez at first, Esteban German at second, Mark DeRosa at short and Marshall McDougall at third. Texas entered the fourth inning leading 4-1, but Los Angeles immediately tied the game on a Juan Rivera three-run homer and scored singletons in the sixth, seventh and eighth. Meanwhile, Texas completed the last six innings with two singles and no walks. Final score: LA 7, Texas 4.

As a result, LA won home-field advantage over Rodriguez’s Yankees, who had lost 10-1 to Boston hours earlier. Informed of the Rangers’ roster shenanigans, Rodriguez provided these words of wisdom: "I just think there's a code of honor when so much is on the line. You hope people do the right thing but you can't control what people do."

Ah, sweet obliviousness. Let’s explore how the Yankees themselves responded to this “code of honor� thingy with so much on the line.

New York chose Jaret Wright to start the last game of the season against Boston’s Curt Schilling. Wright brought a 5.97 ERA into the game, and opposing batters were hitting .335 against him. In his previous start, Wright allowed seven runs (three earned) on six hits in just one inning. Before that, he allowed four runs (three earned) on five hits in 2.1 innings. He has a career ERA of 5.17 in nine years of play. When Wright couldn’t get through the fourth inning, New York replaced him with Scott Proctor, who had a 5.52 ERA on the season (5.81 career) and had allowed a homer every six innings. He’d given up eleven runs in twelve innings in September. Proctor promptly surrendered a three-run bomb to Manny Ramirez. Boston led 6-0 after four and never looked back.

Watching the entertainment from the bench was a rested Mike Mussina, whom the Yankees were saving for the playoffs. Mussina has 224 career wins and career ERA of 3.64. He’s been rather average this season and missed a couple of weeks with a tender elbow, but no sentient creature would chose Wright over Mussina when “so much is on the line.�

Aggrieved parties only speak of “unwritten rules� and “codes of honor� when the results go against them. Ben Davis’s bunt to break up a Curt Schilling no hitter a few years ago provides another example of a code violation. If Hernandez doesn’t reach base, or if Texas holds on to win, nobody says a word or even remembers the violation the next day. Furthermore, accusations of rule-breaking don't exist when the act might help instead of harm. Rodriguez conspicuously neglected to mention that Los Angeles pulled Sunday starter Jarrod Washburn after only two innings and rested Vlad Guerrero on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

I eagerly await Alex Rodriguez’s next off-the-cuff remarks, which will take place during the All-Star Break in 2007.

Posted by Lucas at October 4, 2005 07:39 AM