He’s just so hateable.
That’s always been my reaction toward Alex Rodriguez. There are so many things you could dislike about the highest-paid player in baseball.
He’s smug. He’s arrogant. He cheats on his wife. He’s selfish. He takes steroids. He shamefully, and without any real remorse, accused a highly-respected reporter named Selena Roberts of sneaking around his mansion in Florida and stalking him, a completely baseless and disgusting charge.
Then, though … you see him play baseball. You see how effortless this game is for him. You see his beautiful stroke, his solid glove, how he seems to be a pretty good teammate. And then you watch him struggle for five years to gain acceptance from Yankees fans, maybe the most spoiled and hard to please folks in the world.
I truly never thought of A-Rod as a Yankee; as a fan of the Bombers, I took him the same way I took Roger Clemens: I hate that I have to root for him. But I root for a team, and if he’s on that team, then I guess I have to bite my tongue.
Still, I never thought he’d truly be accepted. He just was not a clutch player, as evidenced by his horrible playoff career as a Yankee. He hit .258, .133, .071, and .267 in the playoffs from 2004-07. That’s Hensley Meulens bad.
Only this October, Yankees fans have embraced him. He’s getting cheered as he’s smacked big hit after big hit. It was like, as many have pointed out, a giant weight (or a large bag of syringes) has been lifted off of him, and he can finally play as free and easy in the pressure moments as he does when it’s 9-3.
Now, A-Rod gets his first World Series shot. Is he still a jerk? Probably. Am I pulling for him? Yes. Do I wish he was on another team? Certainly. Does he enter the Yankees pantheon if he leads them to a title? I’m not sure. He’s got a long way to go on that contract of his.
Rodriguez is a hard guy to like. But for the next 10 days, I like him. That’s life as a sports fan.
***So the World Series starts today, and it could be one of the best in a long, long time. For my money (which isn’t much; hey, I’m a journalist), the most memorable World Series that I’ve ever seen was the 1991 classic between the Minnesota Twins and Atlanta Braves, won by the Twins in a 1-0 Game 7 classic. Coming in second was the Yanks-Diamondbacks 2001 Series, what with the exciting games and all the other outside world issues swirling around.
My prediction? The Phillies are absolutely loaded offensively, and in starting pitching. Cannot wait to see Pedro Martinez pitch in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are loaded, too, with a slightly better offense.
These teams are so close, but I give the edge to the Yanks, in 6 games, for 1 reason: They have Mariano Rivera, and Philly doesn’t.
**Another of my random musings: Was at a high school volleyball playoff match tonight, between two local high schools. It was a good match, exciting and it went the distance, but that’s not what got me thinking. I kept noticing how incredibly happy the Deltona High assistant coach, Laura Smith, seemed. She was pumped up when her team was losing. She was pumped up when they were winning. She was constantly exhorting, smiling, and cheering. Several times during the match she turned to the scorers table and said “Isn’t this so exciting?”
Rarely do you see someone so happy about their job, while they were doing it. It was kinda cool to see.
**Finally, my man Larry King had Hulk Hogan on his CNN show Tuesday night. I was oddly compelled to watch it for a few minutes, whereupon Larry, God bless him, called Laila Ali Muhammad Ali’s wife, not his daughter.
Larry King should be in a museum one day, stared at and puzzled over like an old fossil. The man has been on TV since there’s been such a thing, he always manages to entertain himself and his guests, and he’s never once asked a tough question. He’s truly a marvel.
Also, talking about Larry King allows me to link to this hilarious piece from Jon Stewart, written long before he was the host of The Daily Show. It’s from his first book, and the essay is called: Adolf Hitler: The Larry King Interview. Truly hilarious stuff; give it a listen, it’s only 5 minutes long.