Fast forward to last Friday night’s Red Sox game. Josh Beckett started for Boston. Everyone by now knows that Beckett has a cantankerous personality. Often times he’ll sit and hold before the pitch for impossibly long periods of time until the hitter calls for time. When a hitter calls time early on though, Beckett gets angry. Francisco Cervelli did so in his first at-bat and Beckett promptly threw up and in and knocked Francisco down (and he did the same thing later in the game with runner’s on). Now, for whatever reason, Beckett plays the game “the right way,” which in this case means he’s a dirty player when it’s acceptable to be so. Hitting people is part of being the intimidating ace. That’s how it’s always been. Sure, this can lead to serious injury, but it’s how things have always been done.
Tim McCarver, during the following Saturday afternoon game, continually repeated how Beckett was not throwing at anyone – and maybe he wasn’t throwing “at” them necessarily – but clearly when Beckett gets frustrated, he responds by trying to pitch up and in. It’s part of his tough-guy facade. Sure, maybe you touched him up for a bunch of runs, but he knocked you down.
How is that not selfish? Isn’t that the definition of selfish? Beckett is more concerned with his own image than he is with keeping his team in that game. For some reason we find that acceptable because of the type of image Beckett tries to portray: the old-school, intimidating pitcher.
The image that A-Rod tried to perpetuate in the past – that of the squeaky-clean, hard-working, and talented player – just doesn’t resonate with us the same way. For one thing, as we’ve seen, it’s an impossible act. No one is perfect. A-Rod never wanted to be the toughest player; he wanted to be the best. For whatever reason, we perceive that as selfish.
Last night’s game against Detroit was a great insight into A-Rod the teammate. Greg Golson got the first hit of his major league career and it was Rodriguez who stood up in the dugout, arms waving, asking that the ball be saved. Michael Kay commented on how A-Rod always knows when his teammates reach milestones. People have accused A-Rod in the past of being all about the numbers, but they’re not just his; he cares about everyone’s numbers.
When we say a player “doesn’t care about numbers” but “just wants to win,” what does that really mean? Is there a way to help a team win without putting up better numbers? Some will point to “moving the runner over” and “giving yourself up.” Now, in almost all situations those things aren’t really helpful but especially in Rodriguez’s case. The Yankees need him to hit, period. For him to simply try to move runner’s along would be doing the entire team a disservice.
So again I come back to the question: how is A-Rod a selfish player? Braden suggested Rodriguez should play “less for himself” but the only way A-Rod can help his team is to put up as good of numbers as can. I guess Yankee fans will just have to hope A-Rod acts really selfish and has a monster year.