Friday, August 27, 2004

Yet Another Late-Innings Win...

It's good to see Alex get the big hit at SkyDome Thursday night. After stranding 5 runners on the night, and being subject to increasing criticisms for his failure to hit with runners on (Larry Mahnken, here, and Steven Goldman, here have put together rational discussions of A-Rod's runners-on woes) if he hadn't gotten that double with Bernie and Jeter on in the 9th, he'd have been cooked.

Alex Belth probably described the scene in the SkyDome best:

As he entered the dugout, smiling and looking relieved, Rodriguez stumbled down the steps and almost wiped out. As you can imagine, this was a source of great amusement for his teammates. First, Willie Randolph busted his chops and soon enough, Derek Jeter was letting him have it too. Jeter sat on the bench flanked by Sheffield and Rodriguez. Jeter was doubled over in laughter. Rodriguez looked slightly pink and very much like a little kid. As great a player as he is, Rodriguez looks far more vulnerable than either Sheffield or Jeter do. He comes across as a classic younger brother. He may be a superior talent to Jeter, but there is something about him that suggests he needs validation and acceptance in a way that Jeter or Sheffield do not.

Despite last night's moment in the sun, with a batting average with runners in scoring position that probably can't be salvaged -- even if Alex had a phenomenal September -- and with the A-Rod-less Rangers hanging in the postseason hunt, Rodriguez may be cooked, anyway. Should the Yanks lose in the postseason, Rodriguez looks like an obvious fall guy. (No pun intended. Really.)

Like Roger Clemens, there's something about Rodriguez's manner the New York press will never quite warm up to. And then there's The Contract, which tends to bring out the green eyed devil in those who discuss Alex, and likely will for the rest of his career.

But I think Alex Belth has hit this one on the head: for all the aloofness and artificiality that Rodriguez projects as his public persona, he's just someone that's eager to please, desperate to fit into the role in which his tremendous talent and performance have placed him. Early this season, lots of folks speculated that Jeter's struggles were due to the pressure put on him by Alex's acquisition. Now we may be looking at the inverse being true: Rodriguez pressing to match Jeter's confidence, the golden place that Jeter holds in Yankees fans' hearts.

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