Blue Crack Distributor
Join Date: Jul 2000
Local Time: 05:28 PM
If it doesn't count, count on A-Rod
May 23, 2006
BOSTON -- Oh, A-Rod. Even when you do something right, it seems so wrong.
Of course, Alex Rodriguez smoked the first pitch he saw from Keith Foulke last night well over the Green Monster, the embodiment of a garbage-time home run.
His two-run blast pulled the Yankees from down eight to down six in the ninth inning, and things grew mildly intriguing before the Red Sox's former closer settled down to conclude a 9-5 Yankees' loss.
Joe Torre, of course, saw the positive in that ninth inning.
"These guys are playing their tails off," the Yankees' manager said afterward. But experience dictates that if Rodriguez's 439th homer will be recalled at all by the fan base, it will be done so derisively.
More definitive, in the minds of the many A-Rod Haters, will be his four-pitch strikeout against nemesis Curt Schilling to lead off the fourth inning -- right after the Red Sox knocked around Chien-Ming Wang for four runs in the bottom of the third.
And with Gary Sheffield likely to be back in the Yankees' lineup tonight, this period will go down as one more blown opportunity for Rodriguez to win some more hearts among his own team's fans. Sure, Derek Jeter, Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon could have done more, too, since Hideki Matsui joined Sheffield on the disabled list. But A-Rod always takes the biggest hit, because he's A-Rod.
"I wish I could say something was wrong with me," Rodriguez said after the game. "I've never been more healthy in my career. When I stink, I just stink."
We've seen him stink worse, like in last year's American League Division Series loss to the Angels, and really, the Yankees could have done worse in this stretch without their corner outfielders. They went 5-7, including the May 11 game in which Matsui broke his left wrist.
Yet right now, having lost four of five and closer to third place (a half-game ahead of Toronto) than first (2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox), the Yankees seem mired in a funk. Perhaps Sheffield, and his violent swing, can add some life.
Sheffield doesn't seem to drown in thought the way Rodriguez does. The game doesn't seem to find Sheffield, the way it's always bumping into A-Rod.
"What we do here is, every single day, the measuring stick is different here," Torre said, prior to the game, of Rodriguez. "His individual achievement [takes on importance], even though we think in terms of winning a game, and I know he takes on a great deal of responsibility and takes on a great deal of disappointment when he doesn't produce."
Since May 11, Rodriguez is 13-for-47, with three homers and seven RBIs. That's not terrible, but what stands out most, probably, is his 0-for-4 outing in Sunday night's 4-3 loss to the Mets. He left the bases loaded in the fourth inning with a line drive that Cliff Floyd reached to catch, and in the eighth, with runners on first and second and one out, he hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
"He's got to let go of what happened yesterday, or two minutes ago," Torre said. "That's the most important thing, is being able to move on from right now and not trying to make up for it. And I have a sense that some of it's there, even though he's not going to volunteer that. And I wouldn't expect him to."
The money is great, but being A-Rod has its downside. You have people trying to glom onto your success; yesterday's Boston Globe featured a long story on Jim Fannin, a mental performance coach, who essentially took credit for turning A-Rod from a .220 hitter to a Hall of Famer.
And, for whatever reason -- maybe it's his aura, maybe it's the $252-million contract -- his big-moment failures seem to carry far more weight than his achievements.
"Definitely the contract has been more of a focus," Rodriguez said yesterday. "In the first six years, I couldn't do anything wrong. Anything. I would screw up, and it would be celebrated."
Well, at least that's not an issue anymore.