Thursday, August 22, 2013

Behind the Scenes in Yankees' Locker Room--Ugly

You think the fans hate A-Rod? You ain't seen nothing until you see what's going on behind the scenes in the Yankees' locker room. His teammates don't like him either.

Yankee players wish that third baseman Alex Rodriguez, suspended for 211 games for doping, would just go away. But A-Rod is appealing the decision and, having recovered from January hip surgery, was back on the field Aug. 5. While nowhere near the A-Rod of his glory days, he's playing respectably, hitting in the .315 vicinity. But with A-Rod comes a media circus, which is detrimental to the team. There's another problem. Opposing pitchers are using him for target practice..That drags the Yankees into bean-ball wars, forcing Yankee pitchers to retaliate, forcing pitchers to throw at other Yankees, turning them into collateral damage..

When Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster was blatantly throwing at A-Rod last Sunday, that triggered a bean-ball war that will go on through the rest of the season. Dempster was fined for his vicious attack but everybody knows that's not going to do any good. A-Rod and other Yankees will get plunked. Do you think Yankee players like getting involved in this mess because of a washed-up egomaniac that nobody liked in the first place?

According to sources close to several Yankee players, A-Rod is, more than ever, an island in the locker room. It's no secret that the No.1 Yankee, team-first die-hard Derek Jeter, never wanted A-Rod around, with his Hollywood antics and me-me-me attitude. The breach between the two is even worse. Several players, say the sources, refer to A-Rod as the selfish a-hole. His teammates, report the sources, shy away from him and talk to him as little as possible. Some of the verbal confrontations between A-Rod and other Yankees, say the sources, have been nasty. Whatever civility you see between A-Rod and his teammates during games is apparently bogus. It's not good for a team's image to have players fighting among themselves, so they appear friendly in public. But back in the locker room, away from fans and media, it's apparently ugly, with anger, tension and resentment reigning. Intensity and focus, staples of winning teams, get snuffed out in this kind of atmosphere.

Like most baseball players, most Yankees hate steroid users. The doping scandal stains the entire sport, making any player who's having a good season suspect. So A-Rod is as popular with Yankee players as the other major doper, Ryan Braun, is with his Milwaukee teammates. The anti-steroid faction among players looks upon steroid users as despicable cheaters who are ruining the game. A Rod has nosed out Braun and become the face of steroid use in baseball, so the collective venom against doping is being showered on him.

Struggling all season, dragged down by aging and injured players, the Yankees are battling to dig themselves out of a deep hole and land in the playoffs. Burdened with all the A-Rod baggage, climbing out of that hole is even tougher.

A-Rod just announced that he's going to call off his legal attack dogs for now and concentrate on helping the Yankees make the playoffs. In other words, he's suddenly going to morph into a caring teammate. Is that possible? Can A-Rod and his blood-thirsty reps back off and bow out of the headlines? My guess is no.