One of the more obvious stories this October involved the redemption of Alex Rodriguez. Unfairly labeled a choker during the Yanks’ futile playoff runs over the last five seasons, A-Rod responded with an October for the ages. He hit .365/.500/.808 over 68 plate appearances with six home runs and 18 RBIs. He was probably the overall MVP of the playoffs, and the coverage has examined A-Rod’s complex relationship with, well, everyone.
In The Times, William Rhoden penned an excellent column on the redemption of A-Rod. After some shocking steroid revelations and Spring Training hip surgery, A-Rod was the black sheep of New York. But, as the narrative goes, he put that past behind him, toned down his Me-First approach to baseball and emerged a true team player.
Rhoden though questions those assumptions and that narrative. He points fingers at his fellow writers and reporters and wonders who exactly is responsible for the rehab of A-Rod.
Some speculated that it was the finality of his divorce, others that it was the tearful February news conference in Tampa with teammates looking on. Still others said the author of Rodriguez’s renaissance was Kate Hudson.
But A-Rod is not the one who has changed. He is the same guy. The Yankees’ lineup has changed. The addition of Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher have made A-Rod more effective. The addition of the no-nonsense pitcher C. C. Sabathia and the effective A. J. Burnett has made the Yankees a tougher team over all.
The new view of Rodriguez is, on one level, a media-driven fan transformation that reached a peak heading into the postseason, when he suddenly began succeeding where he previously had failed.
Everyone loves redemption stories, but this transformation is more about fans’ desire to have a winning team than one man’s sea change. What’s troubling about the transformation story is that the root of it is winning. For all of our new, exciting ways of delivering games, one thing has remained constant: performance trumps just about everything. When it leads to profits, performance trumps everything.
Says Rhoden, “His clutch performances and now a championship have changed minds and attitudes.” He ends with quite the kicker as he wonders if A-Rod — formerly A-Fraud — was the phony or if the fans were or if the reporters were. It’s a question with no real answer, but I believe Rhoden speaks to the reporters and the talk radio hosts who kept pursuing the A-Fraud story and the fans who would boo him.
Today, Tyler Hissey at MVN’s Around the Majors began to answer Rhoden’s question. He eviscerated a Bill Madden column from February. The Daily News scribe alleged that for the Yanks to “remain true” to the organization’s “relentless pursuit of championships and the fierce protection of their brand,” in the wake of his steroid revelations, “they have no choice but to sever ties with Rodriguez.”
From an economics point of view, it never made sense to doubt A-Rod, and from a practical point of view, the Yankees weren’t going to cut ties with him. That doesn’t stop people such as Madden or Mike Francesa from blowing smoke. That doesn’t stop fans from booing him on an 0-for-4 day and toasting him after a six-home run effort en route to a World Series title.
Once upon a time, the narrative ruled A-Rod too expensive, too self-centered, too into his stats to win a World Series. Now that he has, A-Rod will just work toward his legacy. He has his ring; he has his championship; he has his great clutch October; and he has his fans. The Yankees have him now and for eight more seasons. For that, I will cheer him in redemption as I cheered him all year and since 2004.