In Defense of A-Rod

In Defense of A-RodThere’s no pleasing some of the A-Rod haters out there. Even when Alex Rodriguez hit a 15th inning walkoff homer to win Friday’s epic Yankees-Red Sox game, he still got disrespected by ESPN.

SportsCenter anchor John Anderson described the homer as “some rare A-Rod heroics.” He then said, in all seriousness, that the walkoff hit made A-Rod “officially a true Yankee.”

Gee, it only took him 5 1/2 years and two American League MVP awards with the Yanks to get that recognition. But until the ESPN anchor’s pronouncement, A-Rod was a man without a team. It’s like Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” only with baseball. I guess now Rodriguez can breath a sigh of relief that somebody from Bristol has deemed him a “true Yankee.” Whew!

Those comments weren’t the only bizarre things that the ESPN anchor said Friday night.  Multichannel News’ Mike Reynolds is reporting that Anderson also derisively chanted “boli, boli, boli” during that night’s SportsCenter broadcast. Boli, of course, is how A-Rod described the steroid he admitted taking.

Anderson, of course, is hardly the only media person to take potshots at the third baseman. In his New York Times’ book review praising Selena Roberts’ book “A-Rod”, Toure wrote:

“Rodriguez is fashioning a reputation as someone who hits mammoth home runs in the early innings and dribblers to the shortstop with the game on the line.”

Only thing is, this reputation, at least as far as the regular season goes, has little basis in reality:

* A-Rod has nine walkoff homers in his career, with six of them as a Yankee.

* Contrary to that “he only hits them when they don’t count” reputation, 42% (241 homers) of Rodriguez’s 573 home runs either tied the game or gave his team the lead.

* And of his 20 home runs this year, 12 of them either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead.

* This season, Rodriguez has 7 home runs and 15 RBI in close-and-late stats. His OPS (On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage) is 1.292 in those situations this year. To put that figure in perspective, Babe Ruth’s OPS in his 1927, 60-homer season was 1.258. A-Rod’s close-and-late stats are only over 54 plate appearances, but they still belie his unclutch rep.

* In addition to Friday’s walkoff, A-Rod’s had some big moments in the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, including ninth-inning, game-winning hits against Curt Schilling, Jonathan Papelbon, and Keith Foulke.

* The most important statistic of all this year is this: the Yankees were 13-15 when A-Rod was on the disabled list. Since his return on May 8, the Yankees have gone 55-27, the best record in baseball. And Mark Teixeira, who was hitting only .198, with five homers, without A-Rod in the lineup, is now an AL MVP candidate.

In Defense of A-RodWhile Rodriguez’s overall numbers (only .261 BA, but a .390 OBP, 20 homers and 62 RBI) are not MVP caliber, A-Rod is arguably the Yankees’ most valuable player this year, making the team better by his presence in the lineup.  True, the $300 million man still needs to have a huge postseason – which he hasn’t done since the 2004 ALDS – to remove the unclutch reputation for good, but he earned his so-called “true Yankee” stats long ago.

Granted, Rodriguez’s career is tainted by the revelation that he used steroids from 2001-2003 with the Texas Rangers. But when confronted with the 2003 positive steroid test results, at least he quickly admitted what he did and showed remorse, albeit in a hamhanded way.

Cynics say that he had no choice but to confess. However, after watching David Ortiz deny using steroids Saturday, and his players’ union head sit there with him spinning a tale of two test lists (something they did not do for Rodriguez), A-Rod’s awkward candor is  refreshing.

To be sure, A-Rod has made a ton of missteps in his life, from invariably saying the wrong thing to hooking up with Madonna to being photographed kissing himself in the mirror.

But he’s also done good both on and off the field this year, and seems more comfortable with the team than ever before. A-Rod was one of the more active participants in the Yankees’ public service endeavor HOPE Week (photos above). He also recently donated $250,000 to fund a mobile dental clinic in his native Washington Heights. Too bad he can’t buy a little respect in this town.

Photo by Nicole Bassis

Lisa Swan, a lifelong Yankee fan, grew up in Passaic, N.J., where her favorite player was the talented but insecure Reggie Jackson. Today she lives on Staten Island, where her favorite player is the t more


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