Yesterday evening, I received an e-mail from an assistant account executive working on a Nike campaign. In an attempt to drum free advertising – it worked here and here and, of course, right here – Brandon wrote to me about the 80-foot-tall billboard of Alex Rodriguez going up today at the corner of 34th St. and 7th Ave.
Now, that billboard, shown above, is pretty huge. And it’s pretty much Alex Rodriguez in your face just in case New York needed a reminder that A-Rod is playing in October again. The billboard exhorts the Yankees “Just Do It” this October. But is that encouragement for the team or a disgusted plea of a fed-up fan base? Really, just do it already, A-Rod.
Meanwhile, in The Times, Tyler Kepner looks at the expectations resting on A-Rod’s shoulders this postseason. A-Rod, we all know, hit .314 this year with 54 home runs and 156 RBI (or one every 9.1 innings this season).
Kepner’s piece runs over familiar ground. The rest of the team has to put A-Rod in a position to succeed; he’s working harder this year and ignoring the criticism; he’s laughing off mistakes and not letting every little thing get under his skin; he’s not going to change his hitting approach in October; etc., etc., etc. It’s something we’ve heard ad nauseum this year.
If that’s not enough for you, then scoot on over to ESPN.com where the Worldwide Leader has just unveiled a Howard Bryant-penned missive on Alex Rodriguez. Entitled The King of Gotham? the piece is a challenge to Alex Rodriguez. Rise to the occasion, Bryant says, and bring home the gold to New York. The world will be yours.
So here are again in October, and the attention is squarely on A-Rod. Like or not, A-Rod has to follow up his 54-home run season with a stellar October. The Yanks could lose in the first round, but if A-Rod hits, he will bear no weight for another early exit from the postseason.
Is this fair to A-Rod? Of course not, but that’s the price he has to pay for a $25-million annual salary. You can bet this year that A-Rod won’t get dropped from the four-hole. It’s been his slot all year, and Joe Torre isn’t about to mess with success.
But that whole opt-out business will come into play too. The Yankees need A-Rod. They need him this week; they need him next week; they need him next year. In the current state of baseball in New York, anything short of a stellar postseason against some of the best pitchers in the game will be a disappointment for A-Rod and the Yanks. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen.