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Down The Line

June 03, 2007|Bill Shaikin

Even by New York standards, this is absurd

For public humiliation, you can't beat this: Alex Rodriguez's wife wakes up in New York last Wednesday. Her husband is in Toronto, where the Yankees are playing the Blue Jays. The front page of the New York Post features a picture of Rodriguez and a "mystery blonde" walking into a Toronto hotel, accompanied by the headline "Stray-Rod."

Tabloid wars ensue, with the Post and New York Daily News alternately reporting sightings of Rodriguez and the mystery blonde all around North America and dispatching correspondents to stake out Rodriguez's wife in New York, his in-laws in Florida and the parents of the mystery blonde in Iowa.

And to shadow Rodriguez.

"It's absurd that somebody is following him," Mets catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "It's absurd that it's on the front page. It's an absolute joke."

That coverage, Lo Duca said, is "over the boundary." He endured his own humiliation last year, when the tabloids quoted two 19-year-olds bragging about affairs with him. But one picture someone breathlessly waved at him, he said, showed him smiling with a cousin.

We're beyond paparazzi now. We're in an era in which anyone with a cellphone camera can post an allegedly scandalous picture online or sell it to a magazine or newspaper.

No moral judgments here. But if the tabloids start tracking athletes as they do movie stars -- and Rodriguez makes more money per season than almost any actor makes per movie -- then New York could become an awfully cold place to play.

Lo Duca said that coverage could sway Rodriguez toward opting out of his Yankees contract this fall and could persuade other stars to stay away from New York. The Yankees and Mets aren't the only teams giving out $100-million contracts these days.

Omar Minaya, the Mets' general manager, dismissed the theory that tabloid coverage of personal lives could make New York a hard sell to free agents.

"New York is the easiest sell in the world," Minaya said. "It's a challenge. If you want to be in an environment where you're comfortable, don't come to New York. If you want to get challenged -- by the fans, by the media -- this is the place to come."

He may be a cheater,

but he's our cheater

New York greeted Barry Bonds last week with loud boos, blindfolds and signs that included "Juice Boy," "Cheater" and "Respect the game, stop at 754."

New York greeted Guillermo Mota with no signs and a relatively muffled mix of cheers and boos. On a night Bonds and the Giants were in town, Mota rejoined the Mets' bullpen after a 50-game steroid suspension.

Before the game, Mota apologized for "my mistake" and said he "learned my lesson." If he were a fan, would Mota boo himself?

"No, I'd be like," then started clapping. "He's a good pitcher."

He pitched two shutout innings that night, his fastball up to 95 mph.

"He made a mistake," the Mets' Tom Glavine said after the game. "He's trying to atone for that. If he pitches like he did tonight, he'll make us a better team."

Calming the storm,

or at least trying his best

The Yankees' crash could cost Joe Torre his job, but Torre can walk away with four World Series championship rings and enormous respect from players, rival managers and the media.

In a Yankee Stadium meeting with reporters last weekend, Torre discussed why Roger Clemens was scheduled to make his first start Monday in Chicago and not this weekend in Boston, alluding to the atmosphere when the Yankees play at Fenway Park.

"It's a nuthouse," Torre said.

True enough, but Torre immediately sensed a screaming headline on the front page of a tabloid. This was all he said: "Don't do that. This is a nuthouse too."

Everyone understood. The tabloids gave him a pass.

-- Bill Shaikin

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