The Major League Baseball playoffs start today, and to preview the Yankees' first postseason in two years, we're taking a daily look at players vital to the team's October success. We conclude today with — who else? — Alex Rodriguez.
There are many important players on the Yankees roster as the postseason opens this evening. Some of them may even be more important to the team's success than Alex Rodriguez. But no one on this team — perhaps no one in baseball history — is under the microscope quite like A-Rod. His postseason struggles have transcended baseball analysis and become late-night-comedy fodder. (Weekend Update, on rumors that Kate Hudson is pregnant: "This would be the first time A-Rod has produced in October.") As of this morning, his reputation as a Yankee will forever be as a great regular-season player and nothing more.
Unless, of course, he finally does something about that. Because if he does, it would complete a most remarkable arc to his season. Back in spring training, A-Rod's baseball world was collapsing around him. He was a PED cheat headed for surgery, and there were whispers that maybe the loose Yankee clubhouse was so laid-back because A-Rod wasn't around. Then A-Rod returned, and the Yankees started winning. A lot.
Almost quietly, A-Rod had a typically terrific season. Mark Teixeira put up bigger numbers, and Derek Jeter's gotten most of the attention, but Rodriguez finished the season with 30 home runs and 100 RBI — not bad for a guy who made his debut on May 8. He's been mostly drama-free — dating Kate Hudson has even been better PR than doing whatever it is he did with Madonna — and if we can play dime-store psychologist for a moment, he might just be entering the postseason with his head clear, perhaps for the first time.
We'd like to point out that, whenever A-Rod's atrocious postseason stats are presented, they usually begin with the phrase "Since Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS." That's perfectly reasonable. But before that series, his playoff numbers were quite good. (He batted .409 with two home runs and five RBI against the Yankees in the 2000 ALCS.) And his one good, complete series in New York did come against the Twins, back in 2004, the last time the Bombers got out of the first round. So maybe that counts for something, too.