Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A-Rod Off to a Much Needed Start

Yankee's third basemen Alex Rodriguez has come off an off-season filled with publicity and speculation. Between his public comments of teammate Derek Jeter, his run-in with the press at his children's book signing, and contract talks about his upcoming extension option with the Yankees for 2008, Rodriguez has not had it easy.

Coming off of a dismal post-season (.071 BA, 4 SOs in 4 games) and a first round playoff exit for the second consecutive year, A-Rod was a nickname not in good graces with Yankee nation this winter. Rodriguez will earn $27 million this season making him the highest paid player in baseball; six million in front of teammate Jason Giambi.

Needless to say, the pressure dial has been turned up on A-Rod this spring. The expectations in Yankee nation are high and thus far Rodriguez has delivered. Throughout the first six games of the season Rodriguez has hit .360 with six homeruns and thirteen RBI's, the most homeruns hit in the first six games of Yankee history. The last of them being a game winning grand slam in the 9th against the Orioles, the second homerun of the game. Without a doubt this is the hottest start of his Alex's 13 year career and it could not have come at a better time.

The question that continues to surround A-Rod is his ability to perform in the clutch. Last season Rodriguez hit .237 with 4 HRs in 76 at bats in late and close game situations, not to mention his lackluster performance during the playoffs in 2005 and 2006. So far this season he has hit two homeruns and six RBI's in three late and close game situations including the walk-off grandslam on Saturday.

Rodriguez has tried to win over the hearts of New York fans for three years now and many people believe three years is long enough. Rodriguez won both the American League MVP and a Silver Slugger Award in 2005, yet he was scrutinized for his performance in the 2005 post-season. New York fans can acknowledge and appreciate A-Rod's yearly Regular Season numbers, but they have 27 million reasons why he should perform in the clutch more consistently. Then again, money grows on trees in YankeeLand.

The other question that must be answered by this season's end is A-Rod's future with the Yankees. Rodriguez may opt out of his contract in November and with the arrival of Lou Pinella in Chicago, Alex may want to revisit his relationship with his first former manager from Seattle. That is, if New York fans do not warm up to him to his liking. If Rodriguez performs at a high level this season(say above .300 with at least 45 HRs) and Yankee fans do not cheer for him more than recently, then expect A-Rod in a Cubs uniform next season. Therefore, my advice to Yankee nation: Cheer on your MVP third basemen next time you're at Yankee Stadium, or else.

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