Wednesday, April 16, 2014
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The latest actions of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez remind many of the actions of former Yankees outfielder Reggie Jackson in the 1970s.
Rodriguez’s return nearly led to a brawl. Benches and bullpens emptied at Fenway Park on Aug. 18 when Boston’s Ryan Dempster threw a pitch behind Rodriguez’s knees, threw two more inside and struck him on his left elbow pad with the 3-0 offering. Dempster earned a five-game suspension.
It’s been a different kind of kerfuffle for the Yankees. For some, the alleged cheating by Rodriguez makes this more significant than Steinbrenner’s decision to pay gambler Howard Spira to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. That malfeasance led the to the owner’s 2 1/2-year suspension from baseball that began in 1990.
“This adventure is unique because many of A-Rod’s teammates are put off by what he’s accused of, so while they have his back on the field, they are hardly rallying behind him in the feud with management,” said Marty Appel, author of “Pinstripe Empire: The New York Yankees from Before the Babe to After the Boss.”
“For national attention, this one may outdo Reggie, but media is more expansive and more competitive today and loves celebrity scandal,” he added.
Imagine Steinbrenner, Martin and Jackson taunting each other with tweets, Facebook campaigns and Instagram photos. Each would have been talk-radio staples, trying to get in the final word. Competition among the three for the most “likes” would have been fierce.
“It would be sort of completely of the charts, wouldn’t it?” said Sandy Padwe, former deputy sports editor of The New York Times and former acting dean of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, where he still lectures. “Multiply it by about 50, I think. George Steinbrenner in the era of social media, that would have been a phenomenon. We thought it was crazy then. I can’t imagine.”
Jackson, a Yankees special adviser now living in Southern California, maintains Rodriguez has been scrutinized more than any other player in New York since, well, Reggie Jackson. He has acted as a mentor to A-Rod, yet he also said last year that Rodriguez’s statistics were tainted by the admission of PEDs use while with Texas from 2001-03.
But don’t try to compare the tumult of the Reggie years with the current turmoil.
“I’m embarrassed when you include me in that kind of stuff,” Jackson said during a telephone interview. “I’m offended. I’m hurt by it.”
Appel believes one ingredient is missing from the current brew. There may be nastiness, but there’s no Steinbrenner.
“For national attention, for the issue and for the money involved, this current one may be No. 1,” he said. “But it does lack the big personality of The Boss as a party to the action.”