Joel Sherman of the New York Post (America’s Newspaper of Record) published an exclusive (and extensive) interview with Alex Rodriguez’s doctors yesterday. On a day where an empty Hall of Fame induction press conference underscored the sport’s reliance on media perceptions, Sherman’s article is a great PR move from a player that could use it. If you can spell ESPN, you know that Rodriguez was MIA in the playoffs coming off two injury-riddled seasons, and what effect that had on his relationship with the forgiving and always-adoring New York sports fans.
This Sherman exclusive – which shares intricate details of the nature of his current injury – is a great public relations move. If you were using baseball metaphors, you’d call it a solid 2-run double.
Given the level of detail the medical staff shares about the status, it’s clear that Rodriguez had to give his blessing for the revelations, and that was smart. Without a single clichéd, Bull Durham-esque quote from the third baseman on being “more disappointed than anyone” or “not getting it done” during his horrendous postseason, two doctors went back and forth practically amazed that he could even walk during September and October. They also debunk the whispers that past steroid use caused Rodriguez’s injury. Best of all, Rodriguez and the Yankees stay out of the story. The medical information alone speaks for itself and doesn’t need framing. Heck, it makes you wonder if Rodriguez will play another game again at all.
And there’s why this is a great story. Demanding fans and the 24-hour sports news machine feed each other, and the meal is often re-digested. In this case, we all know the story: ARod, the richest player in baseball history, doesn’t live up to expectations and the fans hate him for it. More coverage begets more boos raining down from the upper deck, and boos in turn beget more negative coverage. Sherman’s story probably won’t stop that, but it does frame the last three years of Rodriguez’s career in a badly needed new – and much more flattering – light.