A-Rod. Allegedly the greatest player in baseball. Twelve-time All-Star and three-time winner of the AL MVP. Youngest player to ever join the 500 home run club. Number fourteen on the active career hits list. And, yet, despite all this, when he’s the guy to come up to bat in the seventh inning of a critical game against the Chowdas when we’re down by three and the bases are loaded with one out, I’m not even considering the possibility of a grand slam. Nothing against A-Rod, but in that situation, you’re hoping for a walk, hit by pitch, base hit, bunt single, strike out, fielder’s choice, pop fly, pinch hitter, whatever—you’re just praying he doesn’t ground into a double play. You’ve heard me sing that song before. However, one can’t help but wonder why it is we feel this way if A-Rod is, in fact, the greatest player in baseball.
The short answer to that question is that A-Rod doesn’t perform well in the clutch. You’ve also heard that song before. It’s the reason so many people, present company included, give him such a hard time. But A-Rod has a different take, speculating that the real explanation for people’s criticism is jealousy—the other green monster—with maybe just a hint of racism. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he commented, "When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team."
Well, A-Rod, it’s true; those frosted tips and eerily glossy cat eyes may be somebody’s defintion of good-looking, but David Wright is also someone’s definition of good-looking. No one seems particularly eager to find fault with him. And, true, you’re biracial, but so is Derek Jeter. And, uh, ever heard of a little someone named Tiger Woods? Talk about a cornucopia of multiracial fun. People are just gaga over him. So, I’m just going to go ahead and eliminate that possibility on the grounds that it’s preposterous. As you mentioned, you do get paid more than anyone in baseball, and I’ll give you that as one possible reason why people find you so despicable. But I will also assert that that is less about being the highest paid player in baseball than it is about being the most overpaid player in baseball. Big difference. Finally, the fact that you play on the most popular team? Please. Sure, there are those who resent the Bombers. But I don’t hear them running around town slinging insults at Mariano Rivera or Hideki Matsui. And you said it yourself—the Yankees are POPULAR. That means, by definition, that people like them. That lots of people like them. Those of us who do are prepared to rally behind their players. Apparently, all of them but you.
So, A-Rod, now that I’ve successfully poked a hole through your theory about why people love to razz you, I’m going to go back to mine, which is that you stink in the clutch. This year, you’re batting a measly .246 with runners in scoring position. You’re 1-for-10 with bases loaded. Not to mention the fact that you’ve grounded into nine double plays this month alone. Sure, you helped us get to the postseason last year, but look what you did when we finally got there? And dare I even mention the horrifying displays of stinkiness that occurred in the postseasons of 2005 and 2006? You’ve shown us time, and time, and time again that, when it really matters, we can’t count on you to perform. Last night was proof perfect. It was, as I think we all know, all but a must-win game for the Yanks, and what did you do? You went 0-for-5—grounding into two double plays—and gave us a throwing error.
And, yet, there are other numbers to consider—numbers that confuse the issue. A-Rod is batting .308 this season with twenty-eight long balls and seventy-eight RBIs. It’s sometimes hard to understand what appears to be an inexplicable inconsistency between those numbers and what I’m seeing when I watch him take the plate. When I look at his career stats, his season stats, it is impossible not to acknowledge just how good he is. But, as I already said, when we need the hit at the critical juncture in the critical game, he’s not the guy I believe will be able to get it for us. Again I ask: Why is that? Is it truly possible that a player with his numbers really never comes through when we need him? Or do I choose to focus on his failures rather than his successes because it suits my needs?
Not surprisingly, A-Rod has strong feelings on the subject. In another moving attempt to earn our respect and vindicate himself in the eyes of the baseball-viewing public, he commented, “I could care less.” Sorry. That’s not the part that relates to what I’m saying. That’s just the part where he’s pulling on my heart strings. He went onto say, “I've done a lot of special things in this game, and for none of that to be considered clutch, it's an injustice. I don't take anything personally; I enjoy it, it motivates me and I think it's comical. I think [for] anyone that drives in over 130 runs numerous times in his career, it's impossible not to be clutch.” Unlike the other thing he said, it almost sounds like it makes sense, so do we have to accept it as the truth?
I’m afraid I’m going to have to say no. And I’ll tell you why. Remember all that stuff I said before about him batting. 246 with runners in scoring position? Remember his nine GIDPs in a month? Remember the sub-.200 postseasons? That’s why.
A-Rod is truly an anomaly. He is not a case of a player who has talent but fails to recognize his potential. A-Rod gets results. He has the numbers to prove his worth. What he does that’s extraordinary is somehow manage to maximize his own potential without ever maximizing his team’s. And it is a feat that I find impossible to explain. I don’t even know if A-Rod himself could explain it. But who knows? Maybe Kabbalah will reveal to him how he is able to perform so well while every team he touches turns to Crapelbon. Or, maybe, it’s like he says. He could care less.
While we’re on the subject of last night’s game, Mike Bauman of mlb.com had this to say about our friend Covelli’s performance: “The Red Sox were also opportunistic. A high point in this area occurred in a three-run fifth inning, when center fielder Coco Crisp scored from second on a mere infield hit. Crisp alertly kept coming as Jeff Bailey beat out a grounder to third, while Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi held the ball. It was a display of alertness on Crisp's part, and a show of bewilderment on the part of Giambi.” Anyone else get the sense that Coco did a good job being alert? Is it just me, or is that like the saddest baseball compliment you could ever get? It sounds sort of like the kind of compliment you give to someone who sucks, right? Well, Coco Crisp, on behalf of all (one) of us at “You Suck Coco Crisp,” way to be alert. However, and I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear this, but notwithstanding your level of alertness, You Suck Coco Crisp.