Animosity toward A-Rod is too muchPublished 12:04am Sunday, October 14, 2012
In the 2009 Major League Baseball Postseason, there was little doubt the New York Yankees would win their 27th world championship.
The team entered the playoffs that year with 105 regular-season wins, the best in MLB. Starter CC Sabathia went on to have an excellent October, closer Mariano Rivera was as lights-out as ever and Yankee mainstay Derek Jeter had another stellar playoff performance.
And then there was Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod entered that postseason heavily maligned for his underperformance in the playoffs up to that point in his Yankee career. Fans would be all too quick to boo him should he disappoint again, as they had in the past.
But the boo birds didn’t have much to boo about, as A-Rod went on to hit .365/.500/.808./.1308 that postseason, helping lead his team to a World Series title. The monkey was finally off his back — or so we thought.
Fast-forward to Friday night with Game 5 of the American League Divisional Series between the Yankees and Orioles. A-Rod was benched, having hit just .125 with two walks and nine strikeouts in the first four games of the series. He could only watch as his team beat the Orioles to advance to the American League Championship Series.
New York fans have been very vocal in their disapproval of A-Rod’s dismal performance thus far. With every out, boos rain down on from all around Yankee Stadium. Such is the price a man pays for underperforming despite being in year five of a 10-year contract in which he makes an average of $27.5 million annually.
But while criticism is fair, the level of vitriol directed at A-Rod is too much. Yes, he’s grossly underperforming relative to his pay. But it’s not his fault the Yankees handed him perhaps the worst contract in league history in the 2007-08 offseason. Was he supposed to say no to $275 million?
Baseball fans hate A-Rod because he makes a lot of money, plays for a team almost universally hated outside its own fan base and was busted as a performance-enhancing drugs user prior to the 2009 season. Yankee fans dislike him because they think he isn’t “clutch,” and they think he comes off as a phony personality-wise.
His 2009 postseason aside, A-Rod has been rather disappointing when the calendar strikes October. Ever since his epic run in ’09, he has had three subpar playoff performances, including this one. But I would argue that it isn’t a lack of the “clutch gene” that’s the culprit — he’s just not that good anymore.
Fastballs have made A-Rod look silly so far this postseason. He simply can’t catch up to them. As a former PED user with hip, knee and wrist injuries in just the last three years, I would venture a guess that his body is failing him. That’s got to make the Yankees sick, considering he’s signed for five more years with the team.
Yankee fans, though, need to show a little compassion. It’s not like he’s out there dogging it, he just can’t physically get the job done. Furthermore, without A-Rod, the team would still be chasing its 27th world championship.
Yes, he used PEDs. But so did the vast majority of the players in his era, including beloved starting pitcher Andy Pettitte, whom the Yankee fan base was very quick to forgive when Pettitte was busted following the 2007 season.
If you have to hate anyone, hate the Steinbrenner children for giving him that ridiculous contract. George Steinbrenner, may he rest in peace, would have one simple message for his children: You’re fired.