Since Alex Rodriguez has become a Yankee there have been two things fans have become accustomed to, making the playoffs (five out of six years) and Arod disappearing once he got there.
The numbers aren’t pretty: Over his last 16 games he’s batting .143 with one home run, one RBI, 18 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a .529 OPS.
He has, even though most Yankees care to ignore this fact, played very well at times throughout his career in the playoffs. Before that terrible series against the Red Sox, actually including the first three games of that series, he was tremendous in October.
From 1997 to 2004 Arod played in 20 post season games. His numbers were pretty: 84 AB, 8 2B, 5 HR, 14 RBI, .381 BA, and a 1.083 OPS.
So we know that he can do it and he’s likely to do it again. What the problem for Arod seems to be is comfort. The Yankees were put into a tough spot against a really good Red Sox team in 2004. Maybe he had an off night during games four and five and likely started pressing then and has been ever since.
But this season has been different for Arod, he was outed as a steroid user and believe it or not it has been something that has been really good for him. He now states in interviews that he feels the expectations on him to be perfect are no longer there and it has allowed him freedom to relax.
Listen to him talk with reporters leading up to this year’s playoffs.
“I didn’t expect any of you guys to take me at my word – and I don’t blame you,” Arod said. “But for me, I think I’ve done a good job of that this year. Hopefully I can do that for the rest of my career. … I’m in a place in my life and in my life – professionally and in my personal life – that I want to hold on to. I definitely don’t want to change it.”
“We have a unique lineup this year; a very deep lineup,” Rodriguez said. “I’m biased, but I think it’s probably one of the best in baseball – if not the best. I also know that I’m hitting cleanup for a reason, and there’s going to be a point for me to help with some big hits when my number is called. I’m looking forward to the opportunity like I have all year.”
“When you win, the numbers become secondary,” Rodriguez said. “When you lose, the numbers are dissected. I understand the way that works. Our goal is 11 games, and if we get to 11 wins, we’ll get 60 or 70 at-bats and we’ll get contributions from pretty much everyone at some point.”
He really seems relaxed, excited (you can be both?), and ready to take on the playoffs in 2009. Maybe it’s the revelation that he was on steroids finally coming out, maybe it is the fact that with Mark Teixeira he no longer has to be the guy in the middle of this lineup.
Whatever the reason, Arod seems primed for a big postseason.