Monday, February 16, 2009
Updated: February 17, 5:16 PM ET
'Twas The Night Before A-Rod
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the rest of America, Monday was President's Day. For the New York Yankees, it was a whole different kind of occasion:
Day Before A-Rod Day.
From the moment the Yankees' clubhouse opened in the morning to the moment it closed midafternoon, there was only one topic. And, naturally, it had nothing to do with the dozens of players who actually occupied that room.
Instead, this whole day consisted of one gigantic, wall-to-wall A-Rod pregame show. The only thing missing was a big tray of chips and salsa.
Not that anybody expected the hot subject du jour to be a progress report on Humberto Sanchez's elbow. Nevertheless, the day before Alex Rodriguez was scheduled to head for the microphones under the Yankees' Big Top, he was a human eclipse, blotting out every other story line on one of the most intriguing teams in baseball.
That's no small feat, you know -- especially considering the guy wasn't even in the ballpark at the time.
Have I mentioned that Mark Teixeira pulled into this clubhouse for the first time Monday? If you're wondering, he was 8½ minutes into his first chat with the media before he got a single question fired at him that WASN'T A-Rod-related.
Later on, the manager plopped into a chair in his office for his daily dose of press banter. The conversation with Joe Girardi lasted 14 minutes. I timed it.
He took one question about his overpopulated outfield, and another about whether he expected all of his players to report on time. EVERY other question was about his third baseman.
So think about how much Girardi and that talented little $200 million baseball team of his can't wait for this melodrama to be over. Hey, good luck on that.
But at least the manager has that part figured out. Asked Monday if there was a "danger" that this story might linger after A-Rod leaves the witness stand -- er, news conference -- Girardi never blinked.
"Obviously, I think it's going to linger," he said. "I don't think we're going to have a press conference [Tuesday] and then it's just going to disappear."
But when Girardi tried guessing how long those dangling plotlines would stick around, he made a big mistake -- betting the under.
His wishful estimate was that they would all be dealing with the loose ends for "a few days, maybe a week." And if that's the over-under line, give me the over. The WAY over.
This is Alex Rodriguez we're talking about. And he's the No. 1 electromagnetic, soap-operatic force of our lifetimes. Who among us sucks in giant tabloid headlines more routinely than this guy? He makes Lindsay Lohan look like Meryl Streep.
So he's going to be hearing about this story for years. Decades. Multiple decades. Book it.
That isn't what Joe Girardi wants to hear. It isn't what any of A-Rod's Yankees teammates want to hear. But that's the deal. So they should resign themselves now:
They can't control the story. And they can't control the barrage of questions. All they can do is try their best to control everything else.
"It's something we understand we have to deal with," Girardi said. "And that's something I have to watch carefully, to make sure it does not become a distraction.
So we'll watch it carefully, and try to make sure we're getting accomplished what we want to accomplish in spring training first, and then deal with the outside stuff next."
Wait. Did he just mention spring training? How did that sneak in there?
In fact, just to make sure the Yankees aren't working on their A-Rod spin 24/7, I verified Sunday that they have, in fact, been holding spring training workouts three days in a row now. So apparently, they do plan to play baseball one of these weeks.
But they won't be free to just TALK about baseball for a long, long time. Even Girardi conceded he wasn't sure exactly how long a time. At least, though, he said, they had Andy Pettitte's saga from last year "to give us somewhat of a blueprint."
There's clearly some truth to that. And the Yankees will try hard to follow that blueprint -- by surrounding A-Rod with his manager and GM at the podium, and by encouraging his teammates to attend his news conference, as well.
Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada all were present at Pettitte's national confession last year. But A-Rod looks poised to obliterate Pettitte's moral-support numbers. So many Yankees players and coaches seem to be planning to attend Rodriguez's tell-all, Girardi joked that the Yankees had either better "find some more seats -- or a bigger tent."
That moral support won't hurt, obviously. But Pettitte was the first to admit Monday that a year ago, he never once looked over at his buddies in the first row to make himself feel better.
So sure, Rodriguez will need all the support in that clubhouse he can get. But remember this: What goes down at that news conference will be only for show. It's the support he gets for the rest of this season, and the rest of his life, that he'll really need.
It's great that the Yankees have that Andy Pettitte Blueprint to consult at times like this. Unfortunately, once we get past the Q&A on Tuesday, that blueprint won't be a whole lot more relevant than, say, your basic Wilkin De La Rosa Blueprint.
"It's going to be different, I'm sure," Girardi said, "just because of the magnitude of who Alex Rodriguez is. And I think the record that he's chasing has something to do with it, too."
Yeah, you might say that. And it's the pursuit of Barry Bonds' record that will keep this controversy alive, even as the news conferences and Selena Roberts' book and the New York Post headlines explode and fade around him.
So is Tuesday a big, big day in the life of this story AND the life of this team? Positively. But is it going to be the final day, or the final big day, or the final any kind of day in the life of this story?
Yeah, right. And we've heard our final bombastic Hank Steinbrenner quote, too.
So take this gigundous media event for what it is. But never forget what it isn't -- by which we mean: The End.