Can Alex Rodriguez Ever Find Love in New York?

Looked up the July statistics today for two New York Yankees’ players – Jason Giambi and Alex Rodriguez.

And guess what? Giambi’s statistics for the month were much worse than Rodriguez’s. In July, Giambi batted just .186 (16-for-86) with six home runs and 18 RBI. A-Rod hit more than 100 points higher – .295 (28-for-95) with six homers and 19 RBI.

Yet Giambi hears nary a peep from the fans, while A-Rod seemingly gets booed every time he makes an out. It’s a fascinating case study in how two players on the same team are treated so differently by the fans.

Remember in high school when some guys had a ton of friends and other guys had hardly any?. That’s how these two players seem to be.
One is popular, one isn’t.

With a laid-back personality, Giambi comes across as so much more likeable and therefore easily fits right in as one of the guys, a frat boy. Rodriguez is the outsider, the pretty boy. Remember, also, that Giambi overcame all kinds of physical problems in 2005 to have a productive season, earning Comeback Player of the Year honors. Simply put, the fans applauded him for overcoming his adversity, although early in the year, when he wasn’t producing, they were ready to run him out of town.

That how New York fans are. Break you down, then build you back up. They also have short memories. It didn’t matter that Giambi admitted to a grand jury that he took steroids and may not have been such a sympathetic character. In the second half of the season, he was producing, hitting a lot of home runs and helping the Yankees win games. That’s all that counted.

So that brings us to Alex Rodriguez, poor little rich boy making $25 million a season. Can A-Rod ever find love in New York, or is the relationship strained to the point where it can never be fixed? ESPN commentatior Steve Phillips, the former New York Mets general manager, went so far as to suggest the Yankees should trade A-Rod. Now, you can’t help but wonder if Phillips has a personal stake because he was quite critical of A-Rod when the Mets had a chance to acquire him a few years ago. Phillips essentially acused Rodriguez of not being a team player.

The idea of trading a future Hall of Famer – A-Rod reached 450 home runs faster than any player in baseball history – does seem absurb.
The point may be moot, anyway, since he has a no-trade clause in his contract and has vowed to nix any deal that might come along.

Still, in 2004, Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein traded another iconic player, Nomar Garciaparra, who was beloved in Boston, and we know how that season turned out for the Red Sox. Yeah, they won their first World Series in 86 years. Never say never in baseball.

A-Rod is not having a bad season and if he were most players, he would be having a very good season. But because of who he is, he gets judged according to a higher standard. The biggest thing, Yankees fans say, is that he doesn’t get enough clutch hits, that he gets that
deer-in-the-headlights look when he comes up in big spots with the game on the line. They point to his 2-for-15 performance against the Angels in the playoffs last year.

It’s amazing how much abuse the guy gets. He is not a bad guy, nor is he slacker. He’s not a jerk like Barry Bonds and he certainly isn’t a serial killer or child molester. Moreover, he never has been linked to steroids. Yet he seems to be a constant lightning rod – no pun intended – for controversy.

Recently, the tablod New York papers may have reached a new low, making a big deal out of A-Rod sun bathing in Central Park, sans shirt, with his wife and baby on a 95-degree day. That night against the Seattle Mariners, he was hitless in four at-bats and made three throwing errors, although the Yankees still won the game. It was actually suggested in the media that A-Rod was physically drained from the sun bath and that was the reason for his poor night. How ridiculous does it get?

A-Rod’s critics – and they are many – say he is a phony too concerned with protecting his wholesome image. They contend that instead of just going out and playing a little kid’s game, he is too concerned with what other people think.

Again, can the relationship between A-Rod and the fans get so bad that the Yankees would actually consider trading the golden boy? We can’t imagine that ever happening. Besides, booing their players is a tradition among Yankees fans. Mickey Mantle was booed, so was Reggie Jackson. Of recent vintage, even Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera were booed, albeit briefly.

Really, all it will take for A-Rod to win over the fickle New York fans is a few game-winning home runs. Then, they will be best buds.

But you keep waiting for that to happen. You keep waiting for Alex Rodriguez to have his “Yankee” moment.

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