Every once in awhile I call one right. You may think that makes me overqualified to become a major league umpire, and that’s your business. But the proverbial rat I smelled, when noting reports that Alex Rodriguez was talking to Jeff Luhnow as he prepared for the deadline to bid on the New York Mets, wasn’t just my nose telling me liver and onions were chateaubriand.
Rodriguez and his paramour Jennifer Lopez dropped out of the bidding Friday, leaving hedge fund maven Steve Cohen the likely buyer for the Mess (er, Mets). Writing earlier today, I said the J-Rod drop-out means the Mets dodging one bullet: “Taking baseball administration counsel from Luhnow is like seeking family counseling from Ma Barker.”
Apparently, it wouldn’t have mattered to the rest of the owners or to commissioner Rob Manfred if J-Rod had enough money on their own or gathered in a group to buy the team. Say New York Daily News writers Deesha Thosar and Bill Madden, “the final straw that put the kibosh on the Rodriguez-led bid . . . was when A-Rod consulted with disgraced/suspended ex-Astros executive Jeff Luhnow, a source tells the Daily News.”
Rodriguez couldn’t have been more foolish if he’d tried to steal home with the bases loaded, two out, and Babe Ruth himself at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
We take you back to before the coronavirus world tour compelled baseball’s spring shutdown and delayed, truncated regular season. To Rodriguez in the ESPN booth broadcasting an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. To A-Rod ripping the Astros the proverbial new one over Astrogate:
I think the one thing that has really upset the fans is you cheat, you win a championship, there is no suspension, and then there’s no remorse. The last one I think is probably the worst one because people want to see remorse. They want a real, authentic apology. And they have not received that thus far.
Remember, too, that Rodriguez was compelled to humble himself powerfully enough after his exile over the Biogenesis scandal and the revelations of his own relationships with actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances. We thought in March that he spoke from self-inflicted but no less bitter experience when he lectured the unapologetic Astros for their illegal 2017-18 electronically-based sign-stealing operation.
Whatever else Manfred did in handling or mishandling Astrogate, the commissioner at least suspended Luhnow for all 2020 while delivering a report charging powerfully enough that Luhnow’s results uber alles administrative culture, long on technology and stillborn on human relations, did more than a modicum of making Astrogate possible in the first place.
While you’re at it, remember that the Mets themselves got nipped by an Astrogate hound—they’d hired 2017 Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran to be their next manager, only to have to let him go over his own Astrogate culpability before he’d had the chance to manage even one spring exhibition for the Mets.
Luhnow’s suspension enjoins him from doing any official business in any way, shape, or form with any major league franchise all year long. Neither Luhnow nor Rodriguez violated those terms merely by talking, since Rodriguez isn’t tied formally to the Mets or any other team. But let’s not get technical.
Why on earth would A-Rod seek even Luhnow’s informal and unofficial counsel in light of his own on-the-air rip of Astrogate and what he and the entire un-sleeping world knows about Luhnow’s helping to foster the climate that enabled an Astrogate-type cheating scheme in the first place?
To discover sneakier ways to develop sign-stealing algorithms and jam acquisitions down the throats of staffers who find them suspect? To hire assistant GMs who might be smarter about taunting female reporters in the clubhouse that they were so [fornicating] glad they dealt for a pitcher still under the weight of domestic violence charges at the time of the deal?
(Don’t even think about it. Rodriguez trucking in actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances isn’t quite of a piece with the Astro Intelligence Agency. As pitcher Alex Wood said when the Astrogate report came down, “I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.“)
“Alex and I are so disappointed,” Lopez tweeted when announcing Friday that J-Rod dropped out of the Mets running. “We worked so hard the past 6 months with the dream of becoming the first minority couple and the first woman owner to buy her father’s favorite Major League Baseball team with her own hard earned money. We still haven’t given up!! #NYForever”
She might want to include in tonight’s pillow talk that it’s not exactly a brilliant idea to seek out the counsel of a man who had fingers fat enough in baseball’s arguable worst cheating scandal since the final, affirmed exposure of the 1951 Giants. Just remind him that seeking a cheater’s advice on running a baseball team is like hiring John Dillinger for bank security.