HE’S THE REIGNING AMERICAN LEAGUE MVP. He’s the highest-paid player in baseball. He has the third-best batting average (.319). And he’s the last man you want to see step up to the plate when the game is on line.
He’s the enigma called Alex Rodriguez.
The New York Yankees have lost seven out of 10 and their hopes of making a 14th consecutive post-season appearance are fading fast.
Now, more than ever, they need to see a return on the $275 million they have invested in A-Rod over the next ten years.
Yet his inability to produce in pressure situations has never been more glaringly obvious.
We already know A-Rod can’t hit in October. Now, it seems, he can’t hit in August either.
Last night’s game in Arlington, Texas, was just another example. The Yanks were trailing 8-6 with one on and one out in the top of the ninth inning.
Having seen an 8-2 lead cut by Richie Sexson’s Grand Slam, you could sense an air of trepidation among the home crowd and closer Eddie Guardado.
They need not have worried. Their anxiety was nothing compared to A-Rod’s. He might have looked cool enough as he chewed on his bubble gum. But, underneath, the muscles were tensing up, as usual.
Hits for average but not in the clutch
What does he do? He tamely grounds into his second double play of the night and the game is over.
To be fair to A-Rod, he carried the rest of the Yankees on his back in the first half of last season. But life isn’t fair and now he’s back to his bad old ways.
When you earn the kind of money he earns, you’re going to be constantly under the microscope and expected to produce day in, day out.
A-Rod has hit 24 home runs this season but how many of them have come in critical situations? It’s an inescapable fact that he inflates his batting average with big hits when the game is already either won or lost.
Of course, if the Yanks do miss out this year, A-Rod won’t be solely to blame. They will point to a horrendous list of injuries, particularly to their starting pitchers.
But after he opted out of his contract last winter, you have to ask the question: Were the Yanks right to pay all that money to bring him back?
Baseball, we know, is a game of failure. For a batter, three out of ten is success.
But until he does something meaningful in October, A-Rod won’t be regarded as a true Yankee great alongside the likes of Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter.
Of course, the Yanks have got to get there first…