Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Understanding the mystery of A-Rod

If you managed to make it through all nine innings of Tuesday's excruciating blood-letting in the Bronx, you couldn't miss the singular emotion oozing from the Stadium. Anger.

Anger that Andy Pettitte came up small against the big rival again. Anger that the offense refused to accept multiple Boston invitations to get back into the game. Anger that a promising season had gone so wrong. But must of all, anger toward A-Rod.

We need to be fair here, because there's a good chance talk radio and the papers won't be. The Yankees didn't lose this crucial series opener solely because of A-Rod's brutal 0-for-5, two DP, one error showing. In reality, Johnny Damon may be the only Yankee without blood on his hands. But Tuesday was a perfect microcosm of everything that makes A-Rod what he is. More to the point, Tuesday perfectly displayed everything A-Rod isn't.

He has the most physical gifts. He puts up the biggest numbers. He has the highest salary. But he'll never be your savior. The Yankees can win a World Series with Rodriguez on the roster, but they won't ever win title No. 27 because A-Rod is on the roster. It's a head-scratching reality that even the most ardent A-Rod apologists are now starting to understand. He's not the Alpha Dog the Yankees thought they were getting when they traded for him prior to the 2004 season. He proves this time and time again, but for some reason Yankees fans refuse to accept it. Each failure just adds more fuel to the fire. Tuesday became an inferno that stands among the darker days in a Hall of Fame career.

The cautionary tales of the '04 ALCS and subsequent ALDS losses didn't stop the Yankees from bestowing upon their superstar a lavish 10-year deal prior to this season. The contract did more than ensure A-Rod would hit homer No. 763 in a Yankee uniform. It also announced Rodriguez as the new face of the Yankees. Perhaps if the team had taken a closer look at A-Rod's makeup and track record, they would have called his bluff and let him walk when he opted out of his deal in October. Maybe he would have hit his 50th homer of the season on Tuesday for another team with deep pockets and a spotlight that didn't shine so bright. But ultimately, the club made the same mistake that I and countless other fans were guilty of. Blinded by what seemed so obvious, the Yankees assumed there was no way that talent wouldn't translate to titles.

But what the Yankees may ultimately have is a damaged soul, a player who probably never was cut out to be in New York in the first place. The error he made in the seventh inning was a direct result of the boos raining down on him. He was rattled by the rejection of his home crowd and he acted accordingly. The special professional athletes have the ability to block out distractions. Roger Clemens famously said he heard nothing when he stood on the mound. Silence. Imagine that? A-Rod can't. A-Rod can't tune out the criticism. It consumes him. And that thin skin is what ultimately makes a great talent very human.

Human was the very definition of A-Rod's performance on Tuesday. Problem is, human is not what the Yankees paid for, and it isn't what their fans will ever accept.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I was at the Stadium last night and I just sensed that DP coming when ARod came up. It's just the way this season has gone and it's just the way every other year of ARods tenure has been as a Yankee.

Very sad...and maddening