The reaction of Alex Rodriguez and Joba Chamberlain to the news that an annual Sports Illustrated poll of major league ballplayers voted them the first and second most overrated players in the game, respectively, was reminiscent of an old stand-up comic’s routine.
“It’s a pleasure to be standing before you tonight. Actually, it’s just a pleasure to be standing.’’
“I’ve been on this list many, many times and I’m sure I’ll be there again next summer,’’ a laughing Rodriguez said before tonight’s Yankees-Athletics game. “I will say this -- if this is the only thing we’re talking about, we’re doing good.”
Informed that he was sharing space atop the list with A-Rod and Derek Jeter, who came in third in the anonymous poll of 185 major-leaguers, Chamberlain seemed thrilled.
“I’m in good company, dammit,’’ he said. “I don’t care what you say. That’s good company there.’’
But the climate in Jeter’s corner of the clubhouse was decidedly chillier.
Simply put, The Captain was not amused.
“We're doing this again? I've got no comment on their anonymous polls,’’ an unsmiling Jeter said. “So there you have it. Got it? All right.’’
Jeter had been atop the list before the 2009 season, and went on to bat .334 and finish third in the MVP voting. However, he did not see his return to the list -- his name was left off last year -- as a good omen for 2011.
“I've never understood those anonymous polls,’’ he said. “Come on, man. It's the same thing they do every year, right? I'm focused on more positive things. There's your quote.’’
Jeter’s reaction was in sharp contrast to most of the players in the Yankees pregame clubhouse, who laughed off the report.
“So you’re not number one?,’’ shouted A.J. Burnett to Chamberlain. “That [stinks].’’
And when Rodriguez heard he had topped the list, he turned to Burnett and asked, laughing, “Who’s next, Willie Mays?’’
“No, Babe Ruth,’’ Burnett replied.
The poll was hardly taken seriously by the players, even though it was voted on by their peers.
“I don’t care,’’ said Chamberlain, who topped the list last year. “My bills are still paid and I still have a job. You can call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for dinner. Everybody is entitled to their opinion; that’s why this country is so great.”
Then he added, “I guess I’m disappointed that I’m not number one again.’’
Told that Nick Swisher barely missed cracking the top five -- he finished just below Jonathan Papelbon and Jayson Werth, who tied for fourth place -- A-Rod crack, “So the Yankees are popular. That’s good.’’
Manager Joe Girardi also laughed when first informed of the poll by beat writers in his pregame interview session. “I mean, people are gonna vote the way their gonna vote. I gotta tell you, I like my guys. These guys have had success, I’ve won a World Series with these guys so, I don’t know. I like ‘em.’’