Because of his past postseason failures, we’d originally planned to comment on A-Rod’s every move — either until the playoffs ended, or until he gave us enough reason to stop. Today, we discontinue our A-Rod Watch after just three games, and instead reflect on a series of events for which we’ve been waiting six seasons.
Back in 2007, in conversation with fellow Yankees fans, we described Alex Rodriguez as the best player we’d ever seen play. We meant it: That year, A-Rod hit 54 homers, drove in 156 runs, and made a number of what any reasonable baseball fan would consider to be clutch hits. He’d go on to win his third MVP award after the season ended. Still, our declaration was often met with a confused look, as if we’d just declared Gerald Williams the greatest player of all time.
The response was always the same: He can’t hit in the postseason; he’s a bum; he’s greedy; he should have stayed in Texas, etc., etc. We wore our number 13 jersey to Yankee Stadium, half expecting to be heckled by the home crowd. After the 2007 playoffs — in which he batted .267 with one meaningless RBI — we tried to argue that, no, that wasn’t good, but hey, Derek Jeter hit .176 in that series and everyone still loved him. That didn’t help our case.
Defending Alex Rodriguez has, until now, been a pointless endeavor. Because for all the MVPs and big home runs in May, they were right: He hadn’t distinguished himself in October. And for Yankees fans spoiled by the late-nineties dynasty, that was all that mattered.
We always thought most Yankees fans hated on A-Rod because, well, most Yankees fans were doing it. He was an easy target, considering the lady friend in Toronto, the sunbathing in Central Park, or that business with Madonna. Then, of course, there was the PED admission last winter. But deep down, we believed Yankees fans wanted him to succeed more than anybody — not just because it would be good for the team, but because it would be one of those stories they’d tell and re-tell on YES. If the lows in New York are especially low, and the highs are especially high, then the much-maligned, quarter-billion-dollar man coming through when it counts would be the absolute highest of highs. We’ve been telling ourselves this for six seasons now.
Then, in Game 1, A-Rod drives in a couple of runs. In Game 2, he brings the house down with a super-duper clutch home run in the ninth. By Game 3, you were kind of expecting him to come through, and he did. Those three games were years in the making, and they were as sweet as we’d hoped.
Of course, he was excellent in the 2004 ALDS, too, so maybe he just likes hitting against the Twins. If he hits .267 in the ALCS and the Yankees lose in five, no one will care about the last five days come April — but this doesn’t feel like a fluke. When A-Rod takes the field during introductions on Friday, he’ll get the biggest ovation of anyone on the team. Finally.