Friday, November 9, 2007

This Sounds Like the Work of Crazy Old Jemele Hill

Firejaymariotti scooped me on this (even though we’re both a week late). I did have this written and ready to post it just needed some review, but screw that nerdy shit.

Jemele Hill has decided to write an article that compares Alex Rodriguez to Kobe Bryant. The column defends Bryant and points out his differences to A-Rod and, in general, why she would choose to have Kobe over A-Rod (ignoring the fact that they play different sports). Mainly that A-Rod was a distraction to his team during the playoffs during his rape trial, hasn’t gotten his team out of the first round in three years and seems to be whining all off-season every year. Oh wait, that’s Kobe Bryant. Those items either aren’t mentioned or are glossed over. The column defends Kobe’s antics because he just wants to win while A-Rod’s are lambasted as signs that he only cares about himself.

Give me Kobe over A-Rod any day

Say what you will about Kobe Bryant, but at least he's not a mercenary who wants all of the money, but none of the pressure, and doesn't perform in the playoffs.

In other words, at least he's not Alex Rodriguez.

Okay. So we’re comparing an NBA player to an MLB player. Good to recognize this up front, because the leagues and sports are VERY different. Like, if the NBA was set up like MLB, Kobe Bryant wouldn’t have led his team to the playoffs last year or the year before, where he lost in the first round (both years). Also he wouldn’t have led his team to the playoffs the year prior to that, when he…didn’t…lead..his…team to the playoffs. That’s if the performance of these players, in these sports, was really capable of being easily analogized, which they are not.

Both players are generally viewed as selfish, whiny divas. But as we approach the unusual sports phenomenon of having the best player in baseball head to a new team and arguably the best player in basketball also potentially on the move, understand that A-Rod and Kobe are two very different creatures.

Right, one plays baseball and one plays basketball. This is easy, because those sports are very dissimilar. If you try to play baseball using a basketball, pitchers would never throw a strike. So there's one difference. There's probably 2 or 3 more. There are no bases in basketball, no baskets in baseball. One is a sport of 5 guys playing in unison where 1 player can have a dramatic impact on the success of every game, the other is mostly a sport of individual achievements where a team needs many different individuals to achieve, all by themselves, in order for the team to win. In baseball, they have to play as a team, sure, but not like basketball. So I agree, very different.

A-Rod's decision to opt-out of New York is far more self-absorbed than Kobe's finagling to get out of Los Angeles.

How do you know? What if he just didn’t want to play in New York anymore because the media never left him alone, he was unfairly blamed for just about everything that went wrong, and a certain star teammate didn’t want to have sleepovers anymore?

Now, A-Rod’s opting out is likely due to a great deal of greed, and is pretty much the worst thing he can do for his image. But, let’s not be too easy on Kobe, okay? He pretty much imploded the team so it could be “his team” and then put up the gawdy numbers he wanted before noticing that people generally aren’t that impressed by gawdy numbers in the NBA when you can’t get your team out of the first round. Because this is the NBA, where individual players can have a large impact on the success of the team, this is somewhat damaging to Kobe’s legacy.

Despite Kobe's flaws, we at least know he is consumed with winning championships. A-Rod is consumed with being A-Rod.

Michael Jordan took a pay cut so the Bulls could sign Dennis Hopson, who they thought could help them reach the next level. Dennis Hopson sucked. Kobe Bryant couldn’t get along with Shaquille O’Neal in the interest of winning championships.

A-Rod is consumed with being, like, one of the best players ever – and getting paid like it.

Kobe doesn't always demonstrate his aspirations maturely. It also can't be ignored that a key aspect of his championship ambitions is that he has to be the guy in the lead role. But if the worst you can say about Kobe -- whose competitive streak was cloned from Michael Jordan's -- is he no longer wanted to play alongside a once-dominant, but injury-prone center, it's not exactly a sign of the apocalypse.

I love how she brushed by Kobe’s flaws by setting such a high hurdle for it to be newsworthy (um, the apocalypse). Is it a sign of a selfish player, Jemele? Is it a sign of a player who was maybe putting the possibility of winning a championship somewhere other than “first” on his list of priorities?

The worst I can say about Kobe is that he may have raped a girl. The worst I can say about him on the court is that he has not exhibited himself as the best team player that he could be. When criticized about shooting too much, he’s even pouted and then he won’t take shots that he should be taking. He’s sort of a baby that way.

Phil Jackson, arguably the best coach in NBA history, called Kobe Bryant “uncoachable” in his book.

And considering some of the things that Lakers owner Jerry Buss has said about Kobe in recent weeks, we've seen that Buss is his own man -- if he really wanted to keep Shaq, he would have kept him. Buss' main concern was dumping another $100 million into the fourth Fu-Schniken.

Um, right. He could have kept Shaq, and Phil Jackson, and Kobe Bryant would have signed with the LA Clippers. That was Kobe’s move; he was a free agent threatening to sign elsewhere unless Shaq was traded. So Kobe Bryant is absolved from his role in Shaq being traded because Jerry Buss is his “own man”? You don’t think that Kobe could have helped keep Shaq in town, if he really wanted to keep winning? Considering that both Phil Jackson and Shaq were exited from LA, and that's what Kobe wanted, I'm pretty sure he could have had a big say in them staying. The fact is, even if Buss wouldn't have listened to him, what happened was what Kobe wanted to happen.

But does anything in A-Rod's history or demeanor suggest he's remotely obsessed with winning the way Kobe is? A-Rod seems more obsessed with being loved than winning. He wants all the perks, but none of the responsibility. He wants 100-plus RBIs, and to eventually be the home run king. Just don't expect him to bring any of the necessary intangibles it takes to win something meaningful.

Does A-Rod really seem obsessed with being loved? Opting out of his contract during the 8th inning of the deciding game of the World Series is hardly the act of a player who wants to be loved. While I may not expect him to bring any of the necessary intangibles it takes to win, because I don’t know what those are, I do expect him to bring very necessary TANGIBLES for winning. Things like “hits” and “home runs”.

Sounds like a perfect fit for the Chicago Cubs.


A-Rod isn't a leader, comes off as insecure and teams mysteriously seem better off when he's gone. Kobe? The three-time champion thrives under pressure and the low opinions some people have of him.

Hmm, okay. Has Kobe really performed better as an NBA player than A-Rod has as an MLB player since those low opinions were formed, primarily during his rape trial and him being accused of pushing Shaq out? Has Kobe really outperformed A-Rod in the last 3 years? A-Rod should soon have two league MVPs in that time and has helped his team get to the playoffs in each of those years. Kobe hasn’t made it out of the first round w/out Shaq. It’s a lot easier to make the NBA playoffs than the MLB playoffs – and it’s a lot easier for one player to impact his team making the playoffs in the NBA. Now, there are a million other factors at play here, but if you’re going to oversimplify to make convenient arguments then so am I.

Also – see FireJay’s post for numbers regarding A-Rod’s teams after he leaves. You are mentally retarded if you think that teams are better without the best player on the planet because he left….you can’t just look at records and ignore ALL other factors driving the change in records.

Kobe was criticized for brutally assessing the Lakers' lack of progress. But when A-Rod was a Yankee, the only thing that seemed to bother him was his own personal slumps.

Well what the fuck else should bother him? Should A-Rod criticize Brian Cashman for the Yankees’ pitching woes at points in the season? Should Derek Jeter’s slumps bother him? Should he be riding Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettite to pitch better? People like you would be all over him.

Wouldn't you prefer a player who gets upset about losing more than a player who seems fine with it as long as he can stare at his pretty statistics and pay stubs? Can you blame Kobe for complaining about any plan that included passing on a skilled player who could help the Lakers in the present in favor of the long-term coddling of Andrew Bynum? Has A-Rod ever exhibited that kind of passion and determination? Has he ever given answers that didn't sound rehearsed?

Did Michael Jordan ever give answers that didn’t sound rehearsed (no)? Did Dennis Rodman (yes)? What’s your point? What reason did A-Rod have for lashing out at Yankee management? Should he just invent one to seem more passionate?

Even if A-Rod somehow wound up playing for the world champion Red Sox -- and if you're listening Boston, adding this guy to your clubhouse is akin to putting Britney Spears on "Nanny 911" -- it would be difficult to interpret A-Rod's actions as that of a man driven to win.

Putting up the best numbers in baseball = not the actions of a man driven to win.

A-Rod, of course, has the right to chase as much money as he wants. It's not his fault if the market dictates he earn an astronomical figure. There's no denying there were times he was unfairly brutalized in New York. The stalking by the tabloids was unacceptable, as was the fascination with his personal life. But the problems he had there will follow him into his next clubhouse.

Really? Did they exist in Seattle? What about Texas?

It's fair to accuse A-Rod and Kobe of being types who can't operate in a locker room unless they control it.

The difference is, there've been signs that Kobe has outgrown some of that. A-Rod doesn't seem like he ever will.

Right, because Kobe has been really mature this off-season.

There are two fundamental points not addressed by Jemele at all, as follows:

1. In the hypothetical situation that you own an NBA team and an MLB team, and you get one player to start that team (say, for 1 season, because of the impact of age in the two sports is so disparate), of course you take Kobe Bryant. But that’s because of the make-up of the sports. In the NBA, a top notch superstar helps to assure fans in the seats and a much better shot at a title contention. Baseball is just different. I don’t know how she can’t address this. If baseball was played on a smaller field with 5 players on the field and at bat, and A-Rod was able to get the most AB’s on the team by far, then the impact of Alex Rodriguez would be much much greater and he would be as valuable as a Kobe Bryant is in the NBA – probably more valuable.

2. A-Rod is all about the money and the personal accolades. That’s what she implies. He isn’t as interested in winning as Kobe. Let’s break this down:

Money: There is no salary cap in baseball. Baseball players who become free agents are truly paid market value for their services. Rodriguez, being the best player in the game, thinks he should be paid a lot of money for his services, so he gets it. You never hear about Kobe Bryant and money problems for a simple reason. In the NBA, it’s very structured. He makes damn near the most money he can possible make, per the CBA/Salary cap structure. By the way, he makes close to A-Rod money in salary. There is literally nothing for Kobe to complain about, money-wise. If it was truly a free market – with no limit on how much teams could sign free agents for and no salary cap - and Charlotte offered Kobe Bryant $40 million a year, and that was much more than anyone else was offering, would he take it? Would you fault him for taking it? This is another fundamental unfairness that never gets addressed.

Statistics/accolades/records: I don’t see a problem with an offensive player in baseball being concerned with putting up the best offensive statistics he can. It’s mind-boggling how this is turned into a negative quality in baseball.

“Boy, look at Johnny Hanrahan, that guy hit .215 last year and he doesn’t give a shit! He doesn’t care about his numbers! He just wants to win! Now look at selfish Bobby Smith who hit 55 home runs but cared more about hitting those home runs than he did winning. I know this because Johnny Hanrahan is killing himself out there and Bobby Smith is playing in a very smooth, unemotional manner.”

Seriously, why is this hard to understand? A-Rod, by putting up crazy numbers, is trying to win. Yes, the last few postseason series were not up to par. But it’s like 70 at-bats spread out over 4 years. He’s the best player at baseball at getting you to the playoffs, and that’s the hard part. The playoffs are a crap shoot.

Nothing against Kobe, who is an unreal basketball player, but please remember that MLB is a free market system. Also, an NBA player has significantly more impact on his team’s overall success than an MLB player who gets 4-5 at-bats a game and 2-3 balls hit to him.


Matt said...

Another point of distinction. A-Rod was under no obligation to the Yankees when he opted out. Kobe, however, is very much under contract with the Lakers as he totally screws over the team with his trade demands.

Anonymous said...

Before the 2004 season, A-Rod did two things that totally undermine Jemele Hill's point:

1) He tried to restructure his deal to enable a trade to the Boston Red Sox. The Players Association vetoed that.

2) He changed positions so a deal with the Yankees could be complete.

Isn't that the very definition of a guy making sacrifices to play for a winner? Restructuring a contract and changing his position for the sake of team chemistry?

eriz said...

hey don't feel bad about posting this, jeff. Yours includes less ranting and more actual analysis.

The more I think about it though, I don't think it's apples vs oranges. I think Jemele is completely wrong. Arod (an apple) is sweeter bigger and more delicious than Kobe (an orange)

Let's say you could trade 2007 A-Rod for any player in the majors. The team that gets A-Rod is in better shape than they were before. New York is is worse shape by virtue of losing A-Rod. Even if you were to straight up trade possible Cy Young winner Josh Beckett for A-Rod, Boston would have been better off. I can't think of a single player that you could trade for A-Rod and not improve your team.

The same can't be said for Kobe. For example, if you trade Kobe for Tim Duncan, I can guarantee the spurs won't be the best team in the NBA anymore.

That was a bit of a rant, but the more i think about it the more certain i'm right