Alex Rodriguez Making Yankees Brass Look Like Clowns
In the past Alex Rodriguez has come off like an arrogant, selfish player – a player who was easy to dislike. Even the biggest New York Yankees fans haven’t always known how to react to, or feel about the former MVP, but this season MLB fans are getting a chance to see the Rodriguez that may have always been there.
Most baseball fans outside of New York will never give A-Rod a second chance, some Yankees fans won’t either, but they should.
Rodriguez came back from his year-long PED suspension, after trying to take everyone from MLB to the Yankees to court, with a huge bull’s-eye on his back and most assumed baseball would get a more arrogant, selfish Rodriguez in 2015, but that hasn’t been the case.
Even though Rodriguez isn’t the same player he was three or four years ago, he still has a lot to offer the Yankees and it isn’t just his play on the field. Rodriguez is one of the leaders in the Yankees clubhouse; he also has taken young shortstop Didi Gregorius under his wing. Rodriguez has been helping Gregorius with his defensive play at shortstop, as well as trying to help the young infielder’s transition to the Big Apple.
Gregorius walked into maybe the toughest spot of any player in MLB this season, outside of only Rodriguez’s return. Gregorius is replacing Yankees great Derek Jeter. Jeter wasn’t just a Yankees fan favorite; he had been the face of everything good in MLB for the past 20 years.
Gregorius has had a tough go of it so far this season, and unlike most players he isn’t given a pass because he is a young ballplayer, playing in the toughest town in the game.
Each and every time Gregorius does anything wrong, or doesn’t come through in clutch moments, he is reminded of Jeter; let it be the chants for Jeter, or the barrage of questions he is asked on a daily basis about the legend he replaced.
The one player, who can not only help Gregorius deal with the pressure and scrutiny of playing in New York, but also has the baseball IQ to help him get better at shortstop, is Rodriguez. Rodriguez was one of baseball’s best shortstops for many years before he moved to third. There are things only a player like Rodriguez can teach a player like Gregorius and so far, defensively, it seems as if it is working.
Rodriguez has talked to Gregorius about slowing the game down, how he takes angles on plays, as well as how to block out the white noise in New York. Rodriguez has also been showing up early to the stadium to help coach Gregorius.
This isn’t the Rodriguez anyone thought existed. From Seattle to Boston and most places in between, Rodriguez is viewed as the villain who helped ruin baseball, and up to this point he has played the part perfectly.
Since most have already decided who they believe Rodriguez is, they wear blinders and don’t see that they may have been wrong with their preconceived ideas on the man and ballplayer that is Alex Rodriguez.
Since Rodriguez was reinstated by MLB he has gotten the cold shoulder from the Yankees organization and it will continue as the team and Rodriguez fight over the $6 million he is owed for tying Willie Mays with 660 home runs. (The Yankees should pay Rodriguez his money, but that topic is for another day.)
Rodriguez is far from a saint and most things he has to deal with he has brought onto himself, but it’s wrong for the baseball world to not give this man a second chance.
How the fans in the Bronx would treat Rodriguez was one of the more intriguing story lines heading into the season. For some it was more interesting than how he would actually play, but Yankees fans had their arms wide open, as they welcomed #13 back with a huge, and somewhat surprising, ovation in A-Rod’s first home at-bat of the 2015 season.
Rodriguez was raking for a while and the cheers grew louder and louder, but Rodriguez, like all players during the course of a very long season, has been in a mini-slump lately and the crowd in the Bronx seems to be getting frustrated, which is understandable.
What everyone knows, but some fail to acknowledge, is there isn’t one player to put on the pinstripes that hasn’t received a “Bronx Cheer” during his time with the Yankees, but it’s because players on the Yankees are held to a very high standard. What’s irritating is how ESPN and non-Yankees telecasts focus in so much more on the fans booing Rodriguez every time he comes to bat.
Obviously Rodriguez is a big story and during the beginning of the season going to the crowd’s reaction when A-Rod came to the plate was understandable, but it’s getting old. What ESPN did during the Sunday Night game against the Red Sox, going to the crowd’s reaction on every A-Rod at-bat, as well as what was done by the Red Sox crew during the Saturday afternoon broadcast, shown on the MLB Network, are pointless jabs at a player who has done nothing but be a decent player and teammate this season.
Everyone realizes most fans don’t like A-Rod, but there is no reason to stoke a fire that is already extremely hot, especially when a game is on a neutral station and the announcers aren’t supposed to show bias one way or the other.
One of the more entertaining things about this season has been the Yankees treatment of Rodriguez and lack of confidence in his ability. What makes this funny is how the Yankees organization, in their quest to trash Rodriguez whenever they get a chance, are actually helping Rodriguez’s image with their childish treatment of the 14x All-Star.
Rodriguez has handled himself better than anyone could have expected. He not only has handled every verbal punch the Yankees have thrown at him, he has stayed humble, as well as positive. Rodriguez also hasn’t countered any of the Yankees organization’s shots with a verbal counter punch. He’s actually taken the high road with everything that’s come at him this season.
When asked about the home run bonus Rodriguez’s response was, “I’m in a good place.” Even after many futile attempts to get a negative soundbite the questions kept coming and Rodriguez continued to take the high road.
All Rodriguez would give reporters was, “Family business,” Rodriguez quietly said, repeating himself over and over. “I’m just happy to be playing baseball.” One reporter tried one last time to give A-Rod a shot at the Yankees saying to him, “Come on, it’s $6 million.” A-Rod didn’t bite though.
Rodriguez stayed with his drama-free approach and gave the reporter nothing when he responded with, “That’s nowhere near where my energy is. My energy from spring training to now has been all about playing baseball. I’ve been in a good place for a while now. I’ve learned my lesson.”
With how well Rodriguez has handled everything this season none of this should be a surprise. He knows he will not accomplish anything getting into a back-and-forth with the Yankees through the media. He also realized this Yankees team is a close knit group of players who like to play together and are playing winning baseball.
A-Rod isn’t about to be the goat the Yankees organization wants him to be. The biggest question right now is, ‘why are the Yankees taking this fight to the media?’ Why would they risk messing with a solid clubhouse, who obviously have great chemistry and like A-Rod?
It’s like they want to keep pushing A-Rod with the hope he snaps and says something they can eventually use against him. By doing this they’re the ones that continue to fuel the media drama.
Every knows the Yankees planned on fighting the home run bonuses, which makes Yankees GM Brian Cashman’s post-660 HR comments that much more pointless. There was no need for Cashman to put it out there for everyone, again, that the Yankees would not pay or acknowledge the home runs.
A-Rod has become the post-Jeter face of the Yankees. He is producing on the field, has stepped up as a leader, is helping younger players and he is willing to do whatever is asked of him to help the 2015 Yankees win. It would be nice if the Yankees brass could act as maturely as A-Rod has.
Rodriguez has been punished, he did his time and he has come back a better man than anyone thought he ever could be. It is about time the Yankees, MLB media and fans grow up too. Nothing they do will break this new Rodriguez; all they are doing is making him stronger and more likeable.
Follow Nik Swartz on Twitter @