Why A-Rod Should Have Won the ALCS MVP
The New York Yankees won their first pennant since 2003 Sunday night, and starter CC Sabathia was a big part of it. He won the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award for his epic pitching in Games 1 and 4 of the series against the Angels.
But as good as Sabathia was - and he was terrific – in leading the Yankees to the World Series, he should have had to share that award with slugger Alex Rodriguez.
I’m not trying to downgrade what Sabathia did in the playoffs. He had the best Yankee starting pitching performances since the late 90s dynasty years, going 2-0 against the Angels, with a 1.13 ERA. And remarkably, he was still sharp pitching the second start on three days rest. CC also answered the critics who wondered if he could bring his A-game to the postseason, after having had some lousy October outings with the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers.
But A-Rod brought his own A-game to the postseason as well. And the pressure – as well as the criticism – Rodriguez faced was worlds beyond anything Sabathia had to deal with.
Think about it. Ever since that infamous slap play in the 2004 ALCS, Rodriguez has been the Yankee scapegoat for their postseason foibles. There was him playing like a dog in 2005 against the Angels, Joe Torre humilating A-Rod by batting him eighth in 2006 against the Tigers, and Rodriguez still being blamed for the team’s 2007 first-round exit, even though he was the second-best hitter on the Yankees that series.
Despite Rodriguez only being part of the reason the Yankees failed in the postseason (Joe Torre’s mismanagement and the team’s poor starting pitching had as much to do with the October disappointments as A-Rod did), Alex received virtually all the blame, and became the face to the Yankees’ postseason failures. You even heard fans suggest that the team was under some Curse of A-Rod.
But this year was different. Rodriguez started to shed his choking reputation in Game 2 of the ALDS, when he hit a ninth-inning, game-tying homer against Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan to tie the game. He also hit a late-inning, game-tying homer against Carl Pavano in Game 3 to help lead the Yankees to a sweep.
But the ALCS is the place where Rodriguez finally appeared to have put any questions about his clutchitude to rest. He hit .429, with three homers and six RBI. His extra-inning homer in Game 2 off closer Brian Fuentes kept the Angels from winning the game. Most mind-boggling was his .567 on-base-percentage, thanks to eight walks. Rodriguez was twice walked intentionally with nobody on base. There’s no greater sign of respect than that.
With most of the other Yankee hitters struggling for much of the series, A-Rod was a game-changer. Contrary to the (undeserved) reputation Rodriguez had for being a stat-padder, nearly all his hits contributed to the Yankees’ wins. So he deserved to get at least a portion of the MVP, not just for his numbers, but for succeeding despite all the pressure – and expectations – on him. It does seem strange that many of the very same writers who questioned his toughness won’t acknowledge him morphing into an October icon.
When Indianapolis Colts Peyton Manning finally shed his unclutch reputation and won the Super Bowl, he won that game’s MVP, even though he had just a very good, not a great game. The reason was because Manning had finally answered the doubters who thought he was only a regular season stat-compiler. Sound familiar?
But A-Rod didn’t just have a good ALCS series – he had a phenomenal, legendary one, as Yankee fans acknowledged by chanting “MVP” to him Sunday night. And, at the very least, he should have gotten to share the MVP accolades with CC Sabathia. The Yankees would not have made it to the World Series without both of their efforts.
Who knows, though? If Rodriguez continues his October for the ages into November, he might be accepting a World Series MVP in another 10 days or so.
Photo by gfc123
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