Reporters, like the team’s fans, hold him to the standard of Mr. Jeter, a four-time World Series champion. Inevitably, he falls short.
“If he led the Yankees to a World Series, maybe people would leave him alone,” said Murray Chass, the veteran New York Times columnist. “It’s a cumulative effect: When everything doesn’t go perfectly, it’s held against him, and once you have enough of those things, the dam bursts and you get this.”
“If he had been perfect on the field and had not made some of the comments he’s made, it would be hard to create something there,” he added.
And about those comments: Mr. Rodriguez’s attempts to communicate with the press, whether he’s being deliberately minimalist or toying with expansiveness, have had an almost magical enraging quality on the reporters assigned to cover him.
“He hasn’t been really hostile,” said Tom Jolly, The Times’ sports editor. “He’s generally not terribly quotable. He’s certainly not a quote machine. It is a bit of a mystery that we’ve tried to address on several occasions: What it is about him that rubs certain people the wrong way?”
“It’s an equation—a little of this, a little of that—and Alex has managed to accumulate it all,” said Filip Bondy, a columnist for the News. “He has the talent, and he has the controversy, and he has the huge contract, and he has the attitude.”
The idea that Mr. Rodriguez is a cheater—based on the thinnish evidence of about three on-the-field plays, the most recent of which was the “Ha!” incident—somehow completed the toxic mix.
Still, in the wake of “Stray-Rod,” the sports writers’ explanations can only amount to best-guess rationalizations for a saga that has suddenly—literally—become front-page news.
After all, said a reporter who’s covered the team this season, “all the Yankees writers knew about this woman.”
“Because we’re on the road, and keep the same hours, we see plenty of things that we don’t want to write—and we don’t write it,” said Tyler Kepner, the New York Times Yankees beat reporter.
“We don’t go around spying on them,” Mr. Kepner added. “I’d like to think that we never will. When the paparazzi gets involved, then the story takes on a life of its own.”
“The general policy is that we try to limit what we report to whether it affects his on-field play,” explained Mr. Jolly. “So that’s why we normally don’t delve into that sort of thing.”
Mr. Jolly suggested that there were multiple explanations for the special scrutiny.
“There are a number of factors,” he said. “One, he’s been the highest-paid player in baseball, which makes him a target of interest. He’s a handsome guy, a good-looking guy—that makes him attractive to people who don’t follow sports. And he invites it himself by being very public in some of his outings.”
But still, running a story that didn’t occur before the eyes of a reporter—as it presumably didn’t happen in front of Post general-assignment man Dan Mangan, who declined to get into the specifics of the reporting that went into the piece—seemed to puzzle some baseball reporters. Reggie and Billy fought in the dugout; Doc and Darryl got arrested in the public eye.
Then there was Mr. Rodriguez in Toronto, not viewable through court documents or the press box.
“I think if the baseball media perceived any of this as a story, it probably wouldn’t have taken this long,” said Mr. Kepner.
“We’re in an era where I think the landscape has been changing,” said Leon Carter, sports editor for the News, defending the paper’s coverage. “Anything done out in the open, and in public, is fair game.”