Our fourth team member, W.F. Slinger, has finally chimed in with some thoughts about ARod.
People seem to be amazed by the "turnaround" by Alex Rodriguez during this year's postseason. By people, I mean stupid people.
ARod has been one of, if not at times, the best player in baseball since he came up with the Mariners as a 19-year-old phenom. But for all of the home runs (583, but who's counting?) and accolades (3 MVPs, 10 Silver Slugger awards) his lack of winning a world series, especially since coming to the Yankees, has left most baseball fans and media members focusing on his shortcomings in the biggest games.
The time in question spans from the historic collapse to the Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS to the 2007 first round exit to the Cleveland Indians. I'll be the first to admit that Rodriguez was terrible during that stretch, but add it all up and it's 16 games -- also known as one tenth of one season.
Before that and since then he has been tremendous in the so-called "clutch," including a 1.253 OPS versus the Yankees in the 2000 ALCS and a 1.213 OPS against the Twins in the 2004 ALDS during his first playoff series wearing the pinstripes. Add it all together and you get a career .958 OPS in the playoffs as of October 23, 2009. His career OPS in the regular season versus all teams? .965.
Now the naysayers who were completely wrong have started coming up with a new set of excuses. Baseball dinosaur Joe Morgan said ARod is "a different person this year." Others like blowhard Colin Cowherd say he's the "fourth or fifth" best player on the team now so he's not feeling any pressure to be "the guy". If that were the case, the Yankees probably would have won somewhere in the range of 130 games this year.
But for some reason, most people refuse to acknowledge the real reason: the law of averages. Baseball players compile stats over long seasons where things tend to average out. The playoffs obviously don't provide that same sample size, but over time as we've seen with Derek Jeter and now with ARod, the stats mysteriously wind up looking very similar to the player's overall career numbers.
Hmmm, I wonder why? Could it really be that the best hitters and pitchers (CC Sabathia supposedly couldn't pitch once the calendar turns to October before this year) in the regular season can also be the best in the postseason? Gee, what a novel concept.
I mean, just think. How does a guy go from having an almost record playoff RBI drought to starting an incredible record-tying streak in the same game? How does a guy go from being completely "un-clutch" to now being the "clutchest?" And for those who like to go beyond the numbers, he's not exactly padding his stats with two home runs already that have tied the game in the potential last at bat for the Yankees. Sounds pretty "clutch" to me.
In the same vein, are we supposed to believe that Barry Bonds flipped some kind of switch late in his career that magically made him unstoppable in the playoffs after years of horrendous performances? Or that Yankee legend El Duque (9-3, 2.55 career postseason ERA) wouldn't have continued to come back to earth a little given enough time after winning his first eight decisions with an ERA around 1.00?
Baseball statistics, particularly with hitters, come in bunches. As "unlikely" as you may think ARod's staggering postseason performance thus far this year is, it was even more "unlikely" that such a great player would go through such a down stretch. Guess what, though. It just happens.
I know it's natural to want to find David Eckstein-like storylines of grittiness under pressure or guys who "don't have the stomach" to succeed on the biggest stage. But if you've proven you can make it at the highest level, then that means you can turn things around. In a hurry.
Is ARod a bad guy and perhaps someone who is hard to root for based on his contract? That's for you to decide. Just please stop hiding behind your ridiculous excuses and theories of why he is having a monster playoffs this year and admit you haven't given him enough credit. You'll save yourself even more embarrassment in the future.
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