Friday, May 1, 2009

Alex Rodriguez Is a Smooth Criminal

I love Alex Rodriguez. Except for what he does on the baseball field, everything about him is plastic, incompetent and weird. Most of which is hilarious. Rodriguez might now be an overrated baseball talent, but his deeply underrated career as a whacko public figure is just beginning.

The unraveling began February, when reporter Selena Roberts came forward with the revelation that A-Rod had taken steroids while with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez admitted to taking them for a couple years because he felt burdened by his insane contract and obliged to put up offensive numbers commensurate with the numbers in his paycheck. This turned out to be a lie. Yesterday, the New York Daily News reprinted information from leaked copies of Roberts' book, A-Rod, which detailed how he had taken steroids in high school, had taken HGH after leaving the Texas Rangers for the New York Yankees and — allegedly, amazingly — even had a quid pro quo agreement with other teams' infielders to "tip" pitches to them in blowout games to help up their offensive stats and bust through slumps.

While the details are somewhat shocking, the fact that more iniquities were revealed shouldn't be. A-Rod's always been a disingenuous bastard; this, after all, was the guy who wanted to be traded to the Yankees to "play for a contender," when it was his ludicrous contract that absorbed his current team's revenue and precluded their fielding a contender's roster. (If contending was really that important to him, he wouldn't have entered high pressure negotiations that created the implosion of his team's ability to pay for good teammates.) But it was the way he handled the February revelations that told anyone paying attention that there was more going on.

Instead of taking the opportunity to come clean, A-Rod hewed closely to the terms of Roberts' indictment when making his apology. It wasn't, "I did wrong, and I'm sorry." It was, "I did the specific wrong that this reporter indicates, and I did so during the specified period she documented." Even his insincere apology was sabotaged by further insincerity. A-Rod came clean after his representatives falsely accused Roberts of harassing and stalking him. Instead of being honest up front, they tried to make the story about Roberts and some sort of hysterical woman scenario, failed to hoodwink the public with it, then expressed gratitude for the opportunity to finally tell the truth (the absolute minimum of it).

Of course more things were going to come out. His apology was as much affect-less boilerplate as the spliced-in mechanical delivery of Krusty the Clown saying, "I heartily endorse this event or product." At least the details this time are fun. Apparently A-Rod was taking steroids in high school, going from benching 100lbs to 310lbs in a six-month period and putting on 25 pounds of muscle mass. And he allegedly suffers from gynecomastia — a build-up of fatty tissues around the pectoral muscles, which can be caused by steroid use — prompting his teammates to derisively refer to him as "Bitch Tits."

The only detail that really provokes anything like outrage is the pitch-tipping, if it's true. According to Roberts, (via Sports Illustrated), A-Rod would give signals about the coming pitch to opposing infielders. He'd do so only in blowouts where the hitter's success likely wouldn't alter the outcome of the game. The assumption was that, when he came to bat in blowout games, they'd return the favor.* As some of A-Rod's former teammates put it, confidentially, this was basically "slump insurance," a way of padding numbers. When it was time to negotiate contracts, there would be more singles, doubles, triples or homers on the statsheet, proving the player was better offensively. Of course, if this is true, what's despicable about this is that there were more singles, doubles, triples or homers on the statsheets of the pitchers on A-Rod's own team. In order to put food in his mouth, he was taking some out of a teammate's. In a game that's already so much about individual achievement, this is an incredibly selfish thing to do. It's also incredibly difficult to prove.

* — This revelation is doubtless deeply satisfying to fans of teams Rodriguez has played for, who have noticed his uncanny tendency to ground into double plays in tight games and then start cranking out garbage-time homers when his team is already down by eight runs.

Aside from the pitch-tipping, this is more of the same: more disappointment and deceit, more perversion of the record. We're inured by now. Our only alternative is just to laugh at all this nonsense. And we should, because Alex Rodriguez is absolutely hysterical. 

Roberts' book supposedly goes into detail about how contrived and manufactured his personality is, and there's little doubt she got all of that right. A-Rod's so weird he invites piling metaphors on top of each other. He's a designer human being. He's a bonsai person. He's one of the pod people. I have absolutely zero doubt that Alex Rodriguez cannot pass a Voight-Kampff test

He's obviously styled himself in the guise of what he presumes to be the Most Acceptable/Endearing Ballplayer to the public and to baseball ownership, but what's funny is how much he screws it up. Ironically, if he were just sort of an honest jerk, he'd probably be less disliked. But his incompetent efforts to erect this satisfactory facade somehow gall more. Maybe because the facade's crashing to the ground is deeply irritating after the twentieth time it happens.

Then there's all the other stuff that's just regular-weird, not psychological-weird. Like how he sometimes calls time and polishes his bat erotically. (Link is work-safe.) Or how his lips turn purple even in warm weather. Or how he something runs with his hands up, palms facing out, as if on the way down to first base he's going, "ohmigod Ohmigod OHMIGOD A MOUSE—GET. IT. A. WAY. UH." Or the fact that he left his wife to shack up with Madonna, who's practically paleozoic and whose vagina's probably seen more traffic than the BQE.

The dude's just incredibly strange. And I was thinking of this for a while, and it hit me. Boom:

A-Rod is baseball's Michael Jackson.

Both came roaring out of the gate in their careers to dominate their respective fields, eventually becoming the touchstones of their business. Both present plasticized and manipulated visages to the public. Both started out as one thing in their the American consciousness and then changed so drastically that they caused the average American to bail on them. Both make astronomical amounts of money and can no longer relate to normal human beings, nor understand what they are, which obliges them to have weird celebrity friends instead. And both of their illegal practices are harmful to children.

Besides, think about it: is there anything you could learn about Alex Rodriguez now that would surprise you at all? There isn't. Somewhere in the last six months or so, he entered that bizarre celebrity realm where not only is everything expected, but almost everything is tolerated — as if we've just surrendered to the notion that there is literally no act or indulgence that lies outside his prerogative. Anything you could tell me about A-Rod would force me to say, "Well, okay... yeah. I mean, I guess." For instance, I began brainstorming a list of things I couldn't possibly believe, and about halfway through, I started talking myself into some of them being reasonable. See for yourself:
Sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber to increase his "essence."
Will only shake hands with Asians "lefty."
Once deflowered a canoe.
Heard a rap song, misunderstood it, literally tried to smoke a grove of trees.
On multiple occasions, made an equestrian statue cry.
When he plays any baseball video games, he always sets the CPU to Easy and maxes out his own Contact and Power settings.
Owns over 250 hours of clown-related pornography.
The rare genetic anomaly that makes him immune to swine flu also renders him incapable of sneezing.
Thinks "presbyterian" is an ethnicity.
Hires children when on the road so he can always enter a Chuck E. Cheese.
Once asked Jack White if he could look at his penis for three minutes.
Automatically offers the max bid on e-Bay for any Cable Ace Award.
Only wraps presents with copies of the sports section of the newspaper, from days on which he was the cover photo.
Loves to watch dogs pee.
Gave strict instructions to his broker to never invest in any company starting with the letter "G."
Can hear garlic.
Regularly pays hookers to "act naturally."
The pH of his perspiration grows ever more acidic the further away from his head, so that his cleats must be replaced every three games as the bottoms are melted away.
Operates a fansite for polio.
Writes Hitler/X-Men fan-fiction.
Claims to have eaten a ghost.
All of the above are reasons to embrace A-Rod. Sure, he's a cheat, and he might have thrown his pitchers under the bus, and he might be just a chemical compound with an expensive haircut on top of it and lips like Grimace, but how many other people in any sport or any genre of entertainment are this broken and bizarre? 

In the past, I argued that I enjoyed what A-Rod was doing because his record and acts would force a reconciliation between baseball and Barry Bonds and a reckoning between the realities of the game and the fables written by sportswriters. All of that seems so small now, because Rodriguez transcends the sport and the sport's history to exist both in it and in some unaccountable superstar surrealist landscape. I'm sure some people will advance the theory that he destroyed the last hope for natural, traditional baseball, but who cares? The game's legacy already pales. 

Instead, we should focus on this bitch-titted batfucker who apparently worked as a double-agent for other team's hitters by sabotaging his own pitcher. In a few years, there probably won't be any ape hormone left that someone could discover that A-Rod wouldn't have already pumped into his own buttocks. Meanwhile, reeling under the hot glare of the critical press, he'll hop from bed to bed, pursuing ever-older Hollywood has-beens for strangely Oedipal and unerotic comfort and orthopedically inadvisable sex, as his steroid-leached and their osteoporotic pelvises gradually grind each other to dust. Somewhere in all of this, he'll release his cover album of Ron Geesin's Music from the Body, adopt a de-commissioned naval ship and stage a "happening" in Central Park where he lies still as he's slowly and completely covered with owls.

Alex Rodriguez is amazing, and, frankly, baseball is the last thing we should be worried about.