New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez is putting up numbers far below his MVP season of a year ago in hopes of silencing his critics who say he only produces during the “meaningless” regular season and not when it counts. But Rodriguez’s lower numbers this season have only caused his critics to increase their attacks against the future Hall of Famer.
“I’m not going to pretend that I don’t know what people say about me,” says Rodriguez. “That’s why I was hoping that if I sucked in the regular season everyone would stop saying that I suck. But it seems that no matter what I do I just can’t win.”
Rodriguez put up a season for the ages in 2005, his second year in New York, hitting .321 with 48 home runs, and 130 RBI while making only 12 errors in the field. But he didn’t produce enough in the playoffs and the Yankees failed to win the World Series again – with Rodriguez taking the brunt of the blame for that failure.
“I kind of hoped last year that people might let up on me a bit because, well, without me hitting the crap out of the ball we never would have even made the playoffs in 2005 – or in 2004,” says Rodriguez. “It didn’t quite work out that way, though. I had five bad games at a bad time in the ALDS and was informed that I am an embarrassment as a baseball player. So I decided to take another approach this year. I thought if regular season games are meaningless – except for that whole thing about how you need to win them to make the playoffs, of course – I’d treat them as such.”
After weeks of introspection, Rodriguez said he made the decision in the offseason that he would coast through the regular season and rely on his teammates to get him to the playoffs as they have always done on him. Then, once the playoffs arrive he plans to turn it on and reap all the praise.
“My whole career I’ve wondered why Derek Jeter is considered a better player than me,” said Rodriguez. “I mean, if you look at our numbers it’s not even close. And anyone with a brain who ever saw us both play shortstop would say I was far better at the position. Then in the offseason it hit me – I have to sandbag it like Jeter does during the supposed meaningless regular season, put up some mediocre numbers and then play like a true All-Star in the playoffs. It seems pretty easy.”
Nearly halfway through the 2006 campaign, Rodriguez is on pace to hit .278 with just 33 home runs and 113 RBI – all far below his career averages – while making a career-high 26 errors.
“So far it’s going pretty well,” says Rodriguez. “I feel a lot more relaxed this season, a lot fresher. Usually I put so much pressure on myself to win these games so we get in the playoffs that by the time the playoffs roll around I have nothing left. But it’s a lot easier to just sit back and say: ‘I’m going to take it easy and rely on you guys. But trust me, once we get in the playoffs I’ll step up.’ I suppose the only problem is that there isn’t anyone else as good as me on this team that I can rely on to get us to the playoffs. It looks like if I don’t start putting up big numbers again we might not even have a postseason. But if I do that I’m only going to start hearing again how I only perform in the meaningless regular season. Sort of a Catch-22 there.”