“The rules are the rules,” Alex Rodriguez said without a detectable trace of irony.
And here’s hoping the memory of that moment from ESPN’s telecast Tuesday night was enough to bring a smile, if not a chuckle, to Cubs fans cranky from lack of sleep after their team’s 13-inning wild-card loss and early ouster from the postseason.
Puzzling over why runner’s interference wasn’t called on Javier Baez for hugging Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, the ESPN analyst who bent the rules like origami during his own playing career actually said, “The rules are the rules.”
Come on. A-Rod lecturing Baez, the umpires or anyone else on rules? That’s hilarious.
Baez’s tie-up did indeed prevent the possibility of a double play on sore-legged Willson Contreras’ grounder in the 11th that sent Daniel Murphy to second. It did seem curious the umpires didn’t see it that way.
But A-Rod’s rap sheet on the basepaths alone suggests the former Yankee is not the one who should be lecturing anyone over what he described as not simply a bear hug but “a Chicago Bears tackle.”
Rodriguez is the guy who was called out for slapping the ball out of Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo’s mitt en route to first during Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.
A-Rod also is the guy the Blue Jays in 2007 accused of yelling “Mine!” as he ran past third baseman Howie Clark, causing Jorge Posada’s pop-up to fall and a Yankees run to score.
The umpires let that one slide. Rodriguez claimed he only yelled, “Ha,” but shortstop John McDonald wanted a piece of him just the same.
The point is Rodriguez wasn’t exactly a paragon of baseball virtue on the basepaths and elsewhere. So maybe he isn’t the best person to be a stickler for adherence to the letter of any MLB law.
And it’s also funny — though not ha-ha funny — neither fellow analyst Jessica Mendoza nor play-by-play man Matt Vasgersian called him on it.
Given his own shenanigans, “The rules are the rules” should have come out, “I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.”
Still learning: Rodriguez, who now will be part of Fox’s postseason team, remains a work in progress as an analyst. Even when he seems to be saying something profound, it’s sometimes less so on closer examination.
After the Cubs’ light-hitting Terrance Gore went after a bad pitch from Scott Oberg to strike out in the bottom of the 13th, Rodriguez said: “We talk about 3-2 being the money pitch and the most important pitch to dominate in October. It’s usually a chase pitch. The reason why, it’s called anxiety, and in October, it rises like the summer heat.”
The kernel of value there is that nerves lead batters to chase pitches on 3-2 counts in big games. Period.
A 3-2 pitch almost always is critical, especially late in a tight game, and referencing rising summer heat in October is a bit of a mixed metaphor, no?
Oh, say, can you see? Weirdly, the ESPN “Sunday Night Baseball” crew of Vasgersian, Rodriguez and Mendoza seemed to be more on top of the game they called earlier this season from the bleachers at Wrigley Field than from the press box Tuesday night.
They were slow to acknowledge defensive changes. They made little of pitches called strikes despite graphics showing them outside the zone. They too often seemed caught off guard by umpire calls such as Drew Butera’s catcher’s interference that enabled the Cubs’ Tommy La Stella to reach in the seventh despite the fact La Stella’s swing knocked off Butera’s mitt.
Sometimes they missed stuff or gave it short shrift simply because they were otherwise engaged.
By the time Vasgersian thanked Rockies manager Bud Black for their midgame interview at the start of the fourth, Trevor Story had lined out, Matt Holliday had doubled and Ian Desmond was behind in the count.
Tweet of the night — home division: Peter Sagal, host of NPR’s “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!,” tweeted early in the game that if he “were in the booth with A-Rod,” he would “say things like, ‘A strong start by Lester … would be a real shot in the butt to the Cubs.’ ”
Tweet of the night — ballpark division: “I hope the fact that they’ve run out of peanuts at Wrigley doesn’t reflect a lack of confidence about moving on to the next series!” — David Axelrod, former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics and host of “The Axe Files” podcast.
Tweet of the night — professional division: “Kind of terrifying that in a do-or-die game, Terrance Gore got as many plate appearances as Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ combined.” — ESPN’s Keith Olbermann.
Let the record show: ESPN’s pregame analysts — David Ross, Mark Teixeira and Tim Kurkjian — all picked the Cubs to win.
Just asking: Anyone else bugged that A-Rod often referred to the Cubs as the Cubbies?
What’s your cosine? White Sox announcer Jason Benetti did a splendid job on play-by-play on the Statcast-infused alternative telecast on ESPN2.
If only the dizzying array of numbers, stats and probabilities didn’t remind 73 percent of viewers of Algebra 2, there would have been a better than 7 percent chance of not switching back to Vasgersian, Rodriguez and Mendoza.
Who in Chicago leaves a tied playoff game? Vasgersian seemed surprised fans were staying to the end.
Pictures better than 1,000 words: The most effective moments in the entire ESPN telecast were Cubs dugout shots.
One was manager Joe Maddon trying to explain to starter Jon Lester that he was pulling him in favor of pinch hitter Happ to lead off the bottom of the sixth. Lester’s posture as he grabbed his jacket and went to the clubhouse said all that needed to be said.
The other was after the game, as the Rockies celebrated, and Contreras sat alone clutching his bats with his head down in despair.
The final words: Pat Hughes, calling the Cubs radio broadcast with Ron Coomer on WSCR-AM 670, couldn’t have been more businesslike calling the final out by Albert Almora Jr.
“The right-hander Oberg delivers,” Hughes said. “Almora strikes out and the ballgame is over and the Colorado Rockies win the wild-card game. The Rockies celebrate on the mound, and the Cubs’ season is over. Second straight day, Ron, we've seen the opponents celebrating, jumping up and down on the infield here at Wrigley — a very, very disappointing final couple of days to the Cubs’ season.”