A-Rod Confidential

Think MLB players hate A-Rod? Think again.

Originally Published: August 26, 2013
By Matt Ehalt, Dan Friedell, Ryan Hockensmith, Molly Knight, Eddie Matz, Stacey Pressman and Todd Wills | ESPN The Magazine

Alex RodriguezJ. Meric/Getty ImagesWhile players don't necessarily like A-Rod, most don't actively dislike him.

AFTER RYAN DEMPSTER drilled Alex Rodriguez with a pitch last Sunday night, many fans and media members assumed that Dempster's brand of frontier justice was something other pitchers probably wished they too could administer.

That sentiment appears to be way off the mark. Over the past week, The Mag's Confidential team interviewed 36 MLB pitchers, all of whom were promised anonymity. When asked point-blank "Do you want to bean Alex Rodriguez?" not a single player answered yes. In a followup question about risking an ejection to make a statement, only one pitcher said hitting A-Rod would be worth getting tossed. In fact, several went out of their way to condemn Dempster. "That was just bush-league baseball," said one veteran star. "Hitting guys is a part of the game, but only when the situation calls for it. That situation didn't call for it. When you're throwing 90 mph fastballs at people, you need to take caution with that kind of responsibility."

As the results below show, overall, players sounded like they might not particularly like Rodriguez, but they don't dislike him, either. When asked whether he should be able to play during his appeal (something John Lackey and Evan Longoria both publicly disagreed with recently), 83.3 percent said yes. "We collectively bargained for that right, and I would want it myself," said an NL starting pitcher. "I think in our hearts, many of us have a hard time seeing a good player able to play in a playoff hunt when he did something that will probably end up getting him a suspension. But it is his right, and that should be supported."

There also appears to be an undercurrent of anger toward MLB and, specifically, Bud Selig. When presented with the statement "True or false: You'd be surprised how many players think A-Rod has been targeted unfairly by MLB," 47.1 percent answered true. Many pitchers expressed frustration with Selig, saying they didn't understand how the same commissioner who oversaw the game during the McGwire/Sosa/Bonds era is now cracking down on PEDs. "It's hard to take Bud seriously at this point," said an NL starting pitcher. "I think A-Rod is a cheater, but come on. You can't blame him for all of the sins of the past."

Make no mistake, plenty of players had unpleasant feelings toward Rodriguez. When given the chance to name a punishment (in games) for Rodriguez, 20 percent agreed with 211, and another 16 percent would support a lifetime ban for Rodriguez. "He ought to be banned forever after all of this crap," said one American League reliever. "It's taken a long time to get people feeling good about this game again, and he's the main guy keeping the focus on the cheaters. We're all sick of it."

So sick of it, in fact, that when asked "Who would you rather have as a teammate, Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun?" 29 percent said neither. Another 42 percent chose Braun, with 29 percent selecting Rodriguez. "They're both bad guys and bad teammates," said an AL pitcher. "I think Braun is a better baseball player right now, but who wants to deal with having to walk past him every day in the clubhouse?"

Results

1. Do you want to bean Alex Rodriguez?
Yes: 0 percent
No: 100 percent
(35 responses)

2. How long (in games) do you think A-Rod should be suspended for?
Top answers:
1. 100 games: 36 percent
2. 211 games: 20 percent
T3. 75 games/lifetime ban: 16 percent each
(25 responses)

3. Who would you rather have as a teammate, Ryan Braun or Alex Rodriguez?
Braun: 42 percent
Rodriguez: 29 percent
Neither: 29 percent
(31 responses)

4. If the 211-game ban were put to a vote with players, what percentage would side with A-Rod?
Average answer: 43.6 percent
(28 responses)

5. Should A-Rod be able to play during the appeal process?
Yes: 83.3 percent
No: 16.7 percent
(36 responses)

6. True or false: If a Yankees pitcher hit someone on my team, I'd retaliate by specifically targeting A-Rod.
True: 18.2 percent
False: 81.8 percent
(33 responses)

7. True or false: You'd be surprised how many players think A-Rod has been targeted unfairly by MLB.
True: 47.1 percent
False: 52.9 percent
(34 responses)

8. What percentage of players do you think is still violating MLB's drug policy?
Average answer: 7.1 percent
(25 responses)

9. If it meant an ejection, would it be worth it to the pitching staff to sacrifice one outing per series to send A-Rod a message?
Yes: 2.8 percent
No: 97.2 percent
(35 responses)

Other quotes

NL starter: "You don't start throwing baseballs at guys because you disagree with what they did. He's entitled to his appeal and to have both sides make their case. I think it's ridiculous that Ryan Dempster took it into his own hands to basically convict him."

NL starter: "Bud is trying to do too much. He's going outside of what Major League Baseball has established as a drug policy and I think that all they have to do is stick to what the policy is and not try to target a certain person to make an example."

Perennial All-Star pitcher who sides with A-Rod: "I would hope a big percentage of players would side with A-Rod. We're family. We all fight together for one cause and, like it or not, with what he did, there's a basic agreement. You start giving into stuff like that and we become weaker."

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