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The (Continuing) Education of Alex Rodriguez in the School of Hard Knocks
2005-10-14 09:38
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest players of all-time. In his second year in New York he had one of the ten best seasons any third baseman has ever had yet his poor showing in the ALDS will haunt him throughout the off-season. Some writers act as if Rodriguez's lousy series is some kind of character defect or moral failing on his part, suggesting that Rodriguez doesn't have what it takes, doesn't have the toughness, the right stuff, in order to perform well in a pressure situation. Rodriguez's playoff history shows that while he's never had a career-defining monster series in October--though the 2004 ALDS sure wasn't bad--he's been anything but a bust (he was batting .330 in the postseason coming into this year). To Rodriguez's many critics, it's as if last year's ALDS and the first three games against Boston simply didn't exist. Or at least it didn't fit their angle.

I don't think Rodriguez helps himself either. When he fails, it looks as if he's trying too hard. It feels as if he's pressing. How else can we explain why the best player doesn't play the best ball in the biggest spots? Rodriguez was quick to give himself the beatdown after the series ended, which was the correct move. He understands that he's the highest-paid, most-talented and best-looking star on the most famous team in the sport. If he is anything but brutally honest and accountable, he gives fans and journalists another reason to pile on. But Luis Sojo is probably just one member of the team who thinks that Rodriguez is being too hard on himself and I agree. Had his teammates picked him up, we wouldn't be having this conversation. I don't mean to minimize how his performance contributed to the Yankees' loss, but I don't think he needs to take all the heat either.

Steven Goldman, as usual, gave this issue some historical perspective earlier in the week:

The Yankees wouldn't have gotten anywhere at all without Alex Rodriguez. The press and the fans can pillory him for his poor postseason performance, but it's just scapegoating. A lot of Yankees didn't hit in the Division Series. These things happen. Babe Ruth went 2-for-17 in the 1922 World Series. Joe DiMaggio went 2-for-18 in the 1949 World Series (though the Yankees won). Yogi Berra was 1-for-16 in that same series. The key for both Berra and DiMaggio is that their teammates picked them up. A-Rod's didn't. We could go on: Mickey Mantle, 3-for-25 in the 1962 World Series (Yankees won), 2-15 in the 1963 classic (Yankees lost).

Reggie Jackson was a homerless 2-for-16 in the 1977 ALCS against the Royals, but the Yankees covered for him and went on to the World Series. It was there that he earned the "Mr. October" appellation by hitting .450 with five home runs in six games. It wouldn't have happened without support from his teammates. The great Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post cited the Yankees, "Dysfunctional Culture of Blame," and called the "Are You a Real Yankee?" discussion that Rodriguez must not be subjected to "self-defeating foolishness." He's dead on.

I felt badly for both the team and for Rodriguez after the ALDS was over. That double play in the ninth really hurt. But as my partner Cliff mentioned to me on the phone, for the Yankees it should have never come down to that. The series should have been won already by that point. And you know what? If Rodrgiuez manages to stay healthy, and if he is fortunate enough to have some more opportunities to play in October, I think he's going to be just fine. How long did it take Bonds to get the playoff monkey off his back? A looooong time. If he gets the chance, Rodriguez will eventually have his day in the sun. I've little doubt about that. In the meanwhile, he'll come back next year more motivated than ever to prove his worth. I don't think he needs to prove anything to anyone, but until he has a great post-season, I'm not so sure he'd agree. And there are a lot of people out there who'll take his side in this one. So be it.

But if I ran into homeboy on the street, I'd tell him, Chill out, dog. You had a great season. It was very much appreciated. You had a forgettable playoff series. That was disappointing. Keep your head up, you are going to be just fine.

Comments (57)
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2005-10-14 10:46:45
1.   Sky1
A-rod played his heart out, even if the results didn't come in the post season. You can't win all the time, and a teams sucess shouldn't be rated by one man's performance. A-rod has done nothing but be a large contributing factor to the Yanks. He can't let this one bad series ruin his career. If he thinks he lost the right stuff then his performance will be a result of that attitude, but if he just keeps on pushing and holds his head high, the results will come.
2005-10-14 11:12:45
2.   jdsarduy
No doubt A-Rod is the best player in the AL and probably will be for a while.
But he was part of the reason why the Yanks lost to the Angels.
After last years post season numbers against the Red Sox, a monster MVP season and some good numbers against the Red Sox this season I really hoped he would do some magic for us in the playoffs.
But he didn't come through. Don't get me wrong he's the best we have and I wouldn't give him up for anybody and he will get other chances. But there are some players that can do it in the playoffs and some, no matter how great they are, who just can't.
I just hope next time A-Rod is in the playoffs he puts up some good numbers, b/c some parts of the stupid statistical loving media will rip him.
Who should the Yanks have in Center field next year?
I heard Matsui wants a 5 year deal, do we give it to him? I wouldn't.
2005-10-14 11:14:34
3.   BklynBomber
Excellent take on A-Rod, Alex. He'll get his ring(s) and smoke through a few Yankee records in the process. I'm not worried about him.

How about Ian O'Conner of USA Today, writing: "It's official: The two-year A-Rod experiment has been a Bronx tale gone bust."

Huh? Who is this guy?

2005-10-14 11:22:02
4.   Dimelo
Alex being the scapegoat is similar to when a plane crashes and the pilot dies. Even though there was some mechanical flaw in the engine's sealant, it's much easier to claim pilot error than to blame the mechanic.

Despite what anyone says, the Yankees didn't lose this series solely because of Alex Rodriguez. Though if he did hit at a .400 clip then it would be hard to see them losing. He does deserve some of the blame, but he's not the only reason. ARod really did play great during the regular season, it's hard to justify a small sample of 15 at-bats in the post-season and say his entire season was a failure. If the Yankees advanced to the next round and ARod found his groove nobody would question his lack of production in the ALDS. Nevertheless, NYC is full of writers who want to write a juicy story and who better to pick on than the Golden Boy, Alex Rodriguez.

When you are so good, when you make things appear so easy, then jealous one's will always envy.

2005-10-14 11:29:30
5.   markp
Amen! A name left off of that list of big stars having several poor postseason series is Willie Mays (432 OPS in '51, 597 OPS in 62, and a 660 OPS for his entire 89 AB postseason career.)

Is there another LF available? Giving Matsui 12+ mil a year seems kind of absurd. He's a decent stick, but is getting on in years and his defense is awful. Obvioulsy getting a CF who can catch the ball is a must, but let's not get the 2006 version of Tony Womack just for the sake of a glove. Jay Payton should be cheap and can hold the fort until the kids are ready.

2005-10-14 11:45:24
6.   Alex Belth
Mike Schmidt wasn't a great post-season hitter either and after batting .308 in his first playoff series, he had two bad Octobers in a row which cast him as the superstar choke job of the moment. Fortunately, he had a great World Serious in 1980 and didn't have to live with any derisive label for the rest of his life.
2005-10-14 12:10:45
7.   Alex Belth
SG has a sympathetic piece on Rodriguez over at Replacement Level...http://yankeefan.blogspot.com/2005/10/unfair-bashing.html
2005-10-14 12:18:07
8.   Bob B
It might also be added that the Yankees did not win a world series until 1923. Isn't that four years after the trade that brought Babe Ruth to the Yankees?
2005-10-14 12:29:22
9.   marc
I'd give Matsui a 5 year contract in a second. He is an essential part of the elineup. Not only that but it would be foolish financially to let him go. The Yankees I believe make a ton of money broadcasting their games in Japan where I thought they have some separate arangement from MLB. The interest is overwhilmingly about Matsui. The guy has also steadily improved as he's adapted the game and the pitching here. I wouldn't be too surprised if he put up team MVP-like numbers going forward at some point and there's a reason why a lot of opposing managers fear Matsui the most in clutch situations. Just give him the damn contract and spend your time worrying about more difficult decisions. I thought the only reason he hadn't been re-signed a long time ago was because doesn't the Boss hate the agent he uses? And BTW how often do you get a great player that misses games as often as Cal Ripken?
2005-10-14 12:39:37
10.   Jen
//And BTW how often do you get a great player that misses games as often as Cal Ripken? //

I think that may have been a reason for his ALDS woes. If Joe was able to give him some rest at the end of the season (either as a DH, playing only half-games or breaking his streak and sitting him altogether) he may have had something left for the post-season. But since they were in a real pennant race this year, that wasn't possible.

2005-10-14 12:47:09
11.   Shaun P
Steve Lombardi over at WasWatching pointed out that, not only did Mr. October not hit well in the '77 ALCS, but in none of the ACLSs he played in his entire career- ".227 in 11 ALCS series (in 163 ABs!)"

http://tinyurl.com/7bryg

2005-10-14 12:56:36
12.   marc
Shaun, good perspective. I'm really getting pissed off at some of these ridiculous career and even character judgements being made on the basis of a couple of games. It's like the last game is the only thing remembered and there's amnesia for everything else. I'm not really talking about posters her as I am about these imbeciles who get paid to write total crap in a column or story.
2005-10-14 13:06:26
13.   Shaun P
marc, isn't a shame that those total crap stories/columns continue to be in papers that people pay real money for? And the industry wonders why the average age of a newspaper reader is 55 and the number of subscribers keeps dropping.

Alex, I hope you run into A-Rod on the street one day this offseason, so you can tell him that it'll be OK, its not his fault. Should we send him a copy of "Good Will Hunting" to make sure he gets the message?

2005-10-14 13:29:18
14.   Max
I still think Matsui got off easy...I can only recall one or two writers really roasting him, describing his performance as "Starksian". I actually kind of liked that.

BTW, things to consider when taking into account the sheer magnitude of A-Rod hate:

1) He does bring some of it on himself with the way he carries himself when things start to go bad...very subjective, I know, but it's rare to see someone so talented seem to shrink so visibly under pressure...it's like his past achievements immediately vanish with every poor at bat, whereas Jeter's struggles never seem to erode his confidence. Alex B described this very well in his entry.

I remember thinking before his last at-bat "boy, wouldn't a double play be the ultimate downer for his reputation", and like a sharp stick in the eye, there it came.

2) There is a very vocal contingent of fans and writers based in a certain area to the north that seems especially vested in A-Rod's failure, not only as a player, but as an overall human being. This accounts for the particularly strident and personal nature of the attacks.

2005-10-14 14:19:50
15.   weeping for brunnhilde
Of course, Alex, what you say is emminently reasonable. The thing is, scapegoating is emminently unreasonable, it's a religious impulse.

When Rodriguez hit into that dp, I was furious. Just furious. When they showed his mug up on the television, all I could do is give him the finger and mutter like a maniac about how I never want to see his face again.

Earlier that night, in the bar, my impassioned antics prompted one person to ask whether I had boatloads of money on the game or was just a fan. The latter, I said.

The point being that baseball is what it is precisely because its appeal is more mythic than rational. Does it make sense to crucify the poor bastard? No, of course not. But for some deep reason, his crucifixion is damn near irresistible for many of us, at least in the heat of the moment.

Even as my rational side has been telling me for months and months that this team had no business being in the postseason, let alone contending for a championship, once it happened, my irrational side took over, thirsting for some of the old magic. Rodgriguez just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2005-10-14 14:26:56
16.   randym77
I'm inclined to agree with Jen. I think a big reason for Matsui's poor post-season performance was exhaustion. Because of Sheff's injury, Torre could not DH anyone else during that grueling final stretch. And Matsui wouldn't want to take the entire game off, because he's got the Cal Ripken thing going. When he was forced to DH with that ankle injury earlier in the season, he started hitting a lot better. Went on a real hot streak, in fact. Sorry, Hideki, but you're not 25 any more. You gotta start resting, record be damned.

As for A-Rod...I do feel for him. He was almost in tears after that last game. I get the feeling that the pressure gets worse each time he goes up there. There's no way he misses that easy catch in a normal game.

He's always struck me as being more, well, psychologically fragile than, say, Jeter. But I wouldn't consider him a failure. Even if we never use him in the postseason, he's worth keeping around (as someone suggested we do with Flash Gordon). And I think he'll break through eventually, and then he'll relax and be fine.

2005-10-14 14:26:58
17.   weeping for brunnhilde
BTW, Max, the reason I think Matsui got off easy (at least, the reason I gave him a pass) is because I'll always remember that double against Pedro in Game 7. Always. Same with Jorge, for that matter. The flair he hit in that rally is seared into my mind so no matter how angry he might make me, that moment serves to mitigate the situation.

Rodriguez has yet to have that mythic moment, the one that would absolve him from any future failures. Again, it's not rational, but that's the way it is.

2005-10-14 14:48:33
18.   Shawn Clap
I hate to crash this A-Rod love fest, but I'd just like to make a point.

I don't know what Kirk Gibson's lifetime stats are, but I do know he was called upon in a clutch situation in the '88 Series. (And in the '84 Series) - That's how I remember Kirk Gibson.

I can't remember if Paul O'Neil had a good year in '97, but I do remember how he stretched a single into a double in the ALDS when the season was on the line - That's how I remember Paul O'Neill.

I don't know if Jack Morris has HOF stats, but I do know he pitched a 10 inning shutout in the Game 7 of the '91 Series - That's how I remember Jack Morris.

My memories of Scott Brosius are on back-to-back nights in the '01 Series. That's how I remember Brosius.

Maybe I just have a selective memory. Or maybe, it's just natural to remember how players react on the brightest stage, when thier team's season is on the line.

None of the 4 players I mentioned will ever make it to Cooperstown and, granted, A-Rod is a 1st ballot shoe-in with the numbers he has today.

But if A-Rod's career ended today, how would you remember him?

I'd remember the double-play.

2005-10-14 15:16:17
19.   Knuckles
Shawn Clap-

Really? So in your universe, trading A-Rod straight up for Chris Burke would be an absolute steal right about now?

You know goldfish only have a 3 second memory? So that by the time they get to the other end of their tank, it's all new to them again.

2005-10-14 15:22:38
20.   weeping for brunnhilde
Ok, Shawn, speaking of O'Neill, I'll bite. don't forget:

1) The walk against Benitez.
2) Getting thrown out at third in the first inning of Game 7. It was the right risk to take and displayed tremendous guts and determination, just didn't work out.
3) Hitting the bloop to left field earlier in the same series to get driven in (by Tino or Brosius, forget which one). Sure, it was just a bloop, but he didn't strike out.

So what does all this mean? Could just be dumb luck or vodoo, but it does indeed seem to me that there's something to be said for O'Neill's play in "clutch" situations.

2005-10-14 15:36:19
21.   jdasilva
I do think that A-Rod has flaws in how he approaches big situations like the playoffs. While it's natural for fans to compare his clutchness with say, Jeter, (forgetting he ended 8 games with the tying run in scoring position), or his RISP hitting with Sheff (who was the best in the AL), it's a whole other thing for A-Rod to make those comparisions himself. I'm assuming, of course, but it seems that A-Rod is too conscious at times of how he measures up.

That being said, there's no reason to bury A-Rod as a failure. That's shortsighted and foolish.

2005-10-14 15:39:32
22.   markp
In the 1999 WS O'Neill hit 200 and had an OPS of 494. In the 2000 & 2001 ALDS he hit 211 and 091. He had other postseason series where he hit as poorly: .083, .133, 167, and 211. That's a lot of times he was far worse than Arod was this year, and Arod's 894 OPS vs. Boston last year was the main reason we were up 3-0. Jeter's pathetic ALCS, along with Mariano's and Gordon's failures were the reason we lost that one. O'Neil's "clutch" rating has more to do with selective memory than fact.
2005-10-14 16:01:46
23.   weeping for brunnhilde
"O'Neil's "clutch" rating has more to do with selective memory than fact."

Right. It does. That's exactly what we're talking about. There are two general ways of appreciating baseball. One is in reference to facts, the other is in reference to myth. Those inclined towards the latter are likely to have a rationally skewed, albeit no less emotionally real perception and experience of baseball.

If you want to argue that we shouldn't see baseball mythically, fine, but you can't just point out that we're engaging in selective memory when I think we're pretty well aware that we're not exactly relying on statistics.

2005-10-14 16:05:00
24.   randym77
Goldfish do not have 3-second memories. They are actually pretty intelligent for fish, and can be trained. For example, I trained mine to swim through a hoop - actually a plastic bracelet - by rewarding them with food. (Hey, I gotta do something during the off-season. ;-)

Shawn has a point. People do have selective memories. It's part of being human. I fear jdasilva is right, too. It's not just the fans who are making unflattering comparisons.

He's also right that it's shortsighted to give up on A-Rod. Give him more time. Ditto Matsui. He's still getting used to American pitching. Heck, even Randy Johnson may improve next year.

2005-10-14 16:17:28
25.   weeping for brunnhilde
BTW, I just realized O'Neill couldn't have gotten thrown out in the first inning of that game. He must have been hitting about seventh, so leading off the third. FWIW.

There's the old selective memory again. I just remembered it was early on in the game so it came to mind as the first.

2005-10-14 16:58:15
26.   tommyl
What I find amazing about all this is how no one is heaping any blame at all on other Yankees. I don't have the stats handy (not on my home computer as I'm travelling right now) but I recall a host of other Yankee hitters doing basically nothing in the series. I don't think Sheff even had an extra-base hit.

The comment above about being picked up is exactly on target. In years past the Yankees seemed to work well in cycles. When some guys went cold, others would heat up and pick them up. This year it seemed like the whole team would go cold at the same time. It happened in the ALDS and A-Rod, being the best and highest paid takes the blame. If Sheff, Matsui and others had hit well it wouldn't be an issue at all.

While I was furious at that DP in the 9th, I don't judge A-Rod as a person because of it. I'm pretty sure he wanted to do anything but hit into a DP there. As someone who's played some competitive sports and had a fair share of choke moments, I realize it doesn't represent a personal failing.

2005-10-14 17:34:18
27.   randym77
The other Yankees are getting their shares of the blame. Notably Matsui, perhaps because he got the last out. He didn't have a great postseason, but he did hit one homer. Randy Johnson got skewered. (Unlike A-Rod, he got a chance to redeem himself...but people still blame him for there being a Game 5 in the first place.) Sheff didn't have a great postseason, either, but he hit better than A-Rod.

Part of it is the expectations game. If you're supposed to be the best player on the team, and you "play like a dog"...might as well slap on the "kick me" sign. No one's going to blame the loss on John Flaherty, Bubba Crosby, or Chien-Ming Wang. It's the Randy Johnsons and the A-Rods that end up being the whipping boys.

Agree about the lack of teamwork. More and more, I'm starting to think that's what the Yankees need most. They just never seemed to be on the same wavelength - never quite jelled.

2005-10-14 17:49:49
28.   tommyl
randy,

Yes, it is true that other Yankees are being blamed a bit, but no one is saying that Sheff isn't a true Yankee, or Matsui, etc. I agree that they should not be blamed that much either, I merely state that A-Rod shouldn't be blamed as much as he has been. Its unfair.

Its weird to talk about teamwork in baseball, because so much of it is individual battles yet the 90s Yankees seemed to have that quality. Sometimes I wonder if it was just good luck but it seems like more than that. I wonder what's lacking with this team.

2005-10-14 17:52:08
29.   Jen
Ok Shawn, since we're playing the selective memory game, here's a couple of mine.

Game 2 2004 ALDS, ARod hit a double that bounces over the center field wall to drive in the tying run in the bottom of the 12th. He also had a home run in that game and a few RBI.

Game 4 of that series, ARod singlehandedly (well, with help from Lohse) scored the winning run by hitting a double, stealing third, and scoring on a wild pitch.

2005-10-14 18:03:20
30.   Jen
Re: teamwork, I've seen people on other sites use the word "chemistry" and cite the Yankees lack of such quality. If the team had chemistry they would've won. I think it's horseshit. I think winning breeds chemistry, not the other way around. Sure, they were disjointed in the beginning of the year when they were losing more often than not, but once this team started to get in a groove, the "chemistry" was there. In the field, on the bench, they just seemed more relaxed.

There's a ton of reasons why this team didn't get it done against the Angels. From the real (not executing offensively with runners on base), to the perceived (maybe the pennant race going down to the wire took too much out of them?). Personally, I'm not convinced that it was a lack of teamwork issue.

2005-10-14 18:07:53
31.   randym77
I think a lot of people are saying Sheff isn't a true Yankee. Matsui not so much, perhaps because he was such a good situational hitter for most of the year. Everyone assumes he was just tired, not that he chokes under pressure. Still, there are a lot of people who are saying we shouldn't re-sign him.

It probably didn't help that a lot of players who are considered "true Yankees" - Jeter, Mariano, Posada - had pretty good postseasons. Bernie and Tino didn't, but they were slumping before the postseason - in the twilight of their careers. No one really expected much from them.

The '90s teams did seem to have teamwork. They strung the hits together and scored, even though individually, the batters weren't as good as the ones we have now.

The 2005 team had a lot of individual stars, but they didn't seem to work together that well. So many little things - Bernie missing that signal, Sheff and Bubba running into each other, an ace pitcher who can't work with the regular catcher. And so many runners left stranded.

2005-10-14 19:29:39
32.   Hank
It's my guess that people don't really care enough about Sheffield to wonder whether or not he's a true Yankee. I happen to love him, but he feels more like a rented free agent to me. With A-Rod, in addition to his status as the best player in the game, the Yankees were essentially tying the future of the franchise to him since his contract extends through 2010. (That's right, isn't it?) As evidence of this, look back to the press conference when he signed. They flew Jeter up from Tampa, partly to diffuse the third base/shortstop contraversy, but mainly, I think, to pair him with Jeter intentionally. There was no need for that with Sheffield and Johnson. They were just guys free agents -- A-Rod is much more than that.

One more thing -- I guarantee you that Rodríguez accepts the criticism as part of the territory. He'll be fine.

2005-10-14 20:26:43
33.   marc
From the sour grapes department, considering how the Chisox are pitching where middle relief never even gets into the game as their starters pitch great and long, we might of gotten masacred if we made it that far with our middle relief let alone our starters. Also there may have been rain problems in NY though I guess it sounds like you guys may finally be starting to get some relief from the rain if not from from watching Yankee baseball.
2005-10-14 20:48:14
34.   marc
As to A-Rod in retrospect Torre might have unintentionally put more pressure on him when he explained to Alex that in NY it's not how well you hit but when you hit as was reported earlier in the year. I guess he kinda figured that out by himself by now. I really wish though that NY fans and media wouldn't be so bullshit ridiculous with this absurd and inaccurate blame game. Could you imagine though being in Boston where you have to uproot and leave town over a single error in a solid career like the Buckner stuff. At least we don't have that exaggerated pressure of not winning for 50 or 100 years but somehow this A-Rod shit is really a bunch a crap and is nothing but an absolutely phony bullshit standard that goes back to the Texas contract and the Pay-Rod visciousness. Guesss what, most have a fat contract on the Yankees except Small, Chacon and a handful of others and dollar for dollar A-Rod has outperformed pretty much all. At least we didn'dn't get swept like the Bosox and were right in it fighting to the end. I just woke up after dozing off watching the Chisox/Angels game so I'll end my stream of concousness for now.
2005-10-14 20:53:23
35.   randym77
Hank - good point. People don't bother to say Sheff isn't a "true Yankee" because everyone knows he's not. However, Jon Heyman suggested trading him straight up for Manny Ramirez...in order to help fix the Yankees' "character problem." (Does he know the difference between having character and being one?)
2005-10-14 21:33:07
36.   randym77
I don't think A-Rod gets more abuse than the other "star" players. Mariano Rivera was booed at Yankee Stadium this year, because he blew those Red Sox games. Jeter was booed at the Stadium last year, when he was in that horrible slump. I mean, jeez. These are guys who have won championships for us. In both cases, sports writers started saying that old age was catching up with these once fine players. This is very much a "what have you done for me lately" town.

I certainly don't blame A-Rod for the loss. But his performance was easily the biggest disappointment. The guy went from being the Yankees' top hitter in the regular season to being almost the worst (behind Bubba Crosby in SLG). The only other meltdown that came close to being as bad was Randy Johnson. And for Randy, it was just one bad night. It wasn't just one night for A-rod. And it wasn't just hitting. He had that awful error on defense, too, and that baserunning blunder (which was predicted before he did it by at least one person in one of the game threads here). It wasn't just a slump, and it wasn't just bad luck. The pressure was getting to him, and it affected all aspects of his game.

But that doesn't mean he's a bad person, and it doesn't mean he won't one day be successful. And he'll be embraced by the fans and the media when he is. Giambi was welcomed back with open arms when he started producing, and A-Rod will be, too.

2005-10-14 21:52:03
37.   susan mullen
Re: whether Matsui was tired or not at the end
of the season, Joe Torre would've loved to give
him some days off even earlier in the late sea-
son, but he is not allowed to. Matsui has a
continuous game streak going. It is too bad,
because he needs some rest during the season,
but the Yankees can't benefit by allowing him
to have it.
2005-10-14 22:51:54
38.   Jen
Maybe it was that Pepsi commercial. Cause Vlad ain't doing much at the plate either.
2005-10-15 03:09:12
39.   debris
Randym,

How long does it take to get used to "American" pitching. Matsui has had three years. Does it take longer to get used to "American" post-season pitching than to "American" regular season pitching?

2005-10-15 04:36:40
40.   randym77
How many years did Matsui have to get used to Japanese pitching? A lot more than three years. This is a guy who hits left-handed because the other kids, even boys much older than he was, refused to play with him otherwise. A guy who had 50 homeruns during his final year in Japan.

I don't expect him to go back to hitting 50 homers a year, but I think he may still improve. He didn't see the kind of breaking balls in Japan that they throw here. Heck, I'd expect an American player to still be improving his third year in the majors, so why not Matsui?

Pitching is always better in the post-season, but I don't think that was his problem. I think he was tired. Torre expressed concern about that in August and September, but couldn't do much about it.

2005-10-15 07:29:45
41.   debris
Randym,

Tuffy Rhodes also hit 50 home runs in Japan. Yes, there is some adjustment to playing in a new league, though for some reason, AL hitters seem to adjust to NL pitching more quickly than the reverse.

That said, we've seen what Matsui can do. He had his career year in 2004 and, unless he defies all typical trends, is poised to head into the decline phase of his career. My sense is that that the 3 year/35.5 million deal that is currently being suggested is a new sign of fiscal common sense for the Yankees. Three years ago, they'd have given him a 6 year deal.

Matsui is probably as streaky a hitter as I've ever seen. When he's on, he's a scary as any hitter in baseall. He hits everything hard and to all fields. When he's off, he's a double play machine.

2005-10-15 13:10:11
42.   DarrenF
Shawn Clap in post #18, wow. Do you consider yourself a fan? Your memory of the Yankees is not selective, it's minuscule.

I remember when O'Neill popped up a bunt againt the Braves in the WS and walked back to the dubout, thereby getting doubled up. I remember O'Neill going 4-6-3 against the Mets with the game on the line before Vizcaino bailed him out. If you can remember one Paul O'Neill hr in a World Series game, I'll give you a million dollars.

This is not meant to rip O'Neill. That's just how baseball works.

ARod is a great player who had a bat 15 at-bats. This should not be shocking to a fan of baseball, it happens all the time. Steaks and slumps, streaks and slumps.

2005-10-15 13:16:27
43.   DarrenF
debris,

My observation is that Matsui is constantly referred to as a "steady" ballplayer, but, like you said, he's very streaky. I think most observers confuse his personality with his ability.

He also quickly established a rep as a good fielder because, I guess, he wasn't as bad as Todd Hundely or Glenallen Hill. Anybody who watches the games knows he's simply not a good outfielder.

I also find it somewhat amusing that Matsui receives no blame for Yankee title "drought." It's Giambi's fault, it's Unit's fault, it's ARod's fault, it's Mussina's fault, it's the curse of Tino (which no longer makes sense), the team has no character, the team has no bullpen, etc. Nobody ever says the Yankees need Chad Curtis back.

(They don't need Chad Curtis back. They also don't need Scott Brosius or Chuck Knoblauch back, for that matter. They just need to get a few more w's in October.)

2005-10-15 14:07:43
44.   randym77
Matsui got his share of abuse his first year. Remember how they used to call him "Groundzilla"? He hit an insane number of groundballs, because he just wasn't used to the spin American pitchers put on the ball. Some of the "experts" were saying that Japanese players never work out, and the Yankees should have known better.

I think Matsui's best season could still be ahead of him. A lot of players hit well through their mid-30s these days. And Matsui seems willing to do the hard work required to keep on top of his game as he ages.

And speaking of old warhorses...the Rocket is pitching today. Possibly his last game.

And he just hit a single...

2005-10-15 15:14:19
45.   ieddyi
Talk about selective memory- Arod has already had a good playoff series- last years ALDS when he carried the team. He hit very well in the ALCS before he went cold along with the rest of the team.
Matsui and Sheff both left more men on base this year in the playoffs than Arod. ANd arods obp made up somewhat for his low BA
2005-10-15 19:47:56
46.   uburoisc
I am very, very fond of Matsui, and I would offer him 4 years. He really belongs in NYC and I think his defense perfectly adaquate. I also think he will continue to improve, not decline; he simply seems to have such a strong focus and ethic to improve the parts of his game that are lacking that I do not see him following the traditional patternes of decline. And, as another poster noted, Japan is crazy about him and the Yanks gain considerably by having him. Pay the man.
2005-10-15 19:52:32
47.   marc
Looks like we might have gotten our ass kicked if we made it through the Angels. I can just see their starters tough and throwing near complete games while he have to go to middle relief, game over. I mean El Duque and and most of their other pitcher's problem seems to be how to stay sharp for the next round when they're never needed.
2005-10-15 20:01:43
48.   singledd
I am a big ARod fan. I care for the man as both a player and a person. I hate all the 'clutch'/'choke' talk because it is mostly circumstancial and a product of selective memory.

I do think however, that Alex does not respond to presure well. I would not call him a choker, but I think he plays below his ability when the pressure is on and he thinks 'too much'.

He has had good numbers at some 'clutch' times, but he is a great ballplayer. He simply can't be bad that too often.

I feel for the guy. Because some insane owner offered him a ridiculous amount of money, he is now forever hounded. As has been pointed out, Mays, Mantle, Jackson, Bonds, our friend Paulie, and many other greats have had some bad post-seasons. I'm sure if Alex gets the chance, his PS numbers will conform to his norm.

He is fighting some demons. If he can get his head together, he will be truly scary to watch.

What a bummer this late fall has been. I usually love the PS, but I'm hardly motivated to even check on the scores. The ChiSox are a good team, but boring to watch. I'll bet with neither the Red Sox or Yanks in the PS, a LOT of TV revenue will be lost.

Shit. Let it snow.

2005-10-15 20:02:01
49.   marc
If vlady played in NY I could just see the NY papers "bad Vlad, sad, mad NY. I haven't been watching closely but he seems to be stinking the joint up. I'm not sure if Southern California gives a crap when they're out surfing.
2005-10-15 20:12:32
50.   marc
I don't think the TV revenue is bad when you have two huge markets, Chicagoland and Southern California playing. When they panic is when you get something like a Twins-Toronto game. For the World Series, I don't think most of the rest of the country is interested when we have a subway series.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-10-15 21:39:22
51.   randym77
I heard once that the Yankees actually make money off Matsui, because they sell media rights to Japan for big bucks. Dunno if that's accurate, but if it's even partly true, $35 million could be a bargain.

I almost feel sorry for the Angels. I don't know if it's karma or what, but the umpires are killing them. All the little things went their way when we played them are going against them now. There were at least three terrible calls tonight that screwed them over.

I think a lot of people are like Mr. Bayless: they may hate the Yankees, but they miss them when they're gone. I seem to recall hearing that the ratings always go up when the Yankees are playing...and losing.

The Subway Series was a ratings bust, but I have very fond memories of it. Even though I didn't see most of the games. My parents had picked that week to come up for a visit. They wanted to see New York City, so I got us hotel rooms, Broadway tickets, etc. The usual out of towner things. Everywhere we went, people were talking about the Yankees. In the elevator, total strangers would ask us if we knew the score of the game. The taxi driver who took us to Times Square asked us if we preferred the Mets or the Yanks, and spent the whole drive talking about why he liked the Yanks. Times Square was like a huge block party. Cars were parked with the game blasting on their radios and all the doors open. The cops who were supposed to be on patrol were instead glued to the windows of bars and restaurants, watching the game on the TVs inside. Every time the Yankees scored, people would run out of the bars and lean out of their cars to scream the score to passers-by, who would cheer loudly.

My parents now think NYC is the friendliest city on the planet. :)

2005-10-16 13:51:24
52.   Schteeve
When someone is paying me $25 million dollars a year to do something...anything, I'm going to accept the fact that any shortcoming I have at all, is going to be magnified. I hope to have Alex Rodriguez's problems some day.
2005-10-16 19:03:22
53.   Jen
ARod's mom says his uncle's death played a part in his (lack of) performance.

http://tinyurl.com/dy2c2

2005-10-17 06:20:27
54.   joe in boston
Man, anyone else miss the Yanks in this postseason? As much as I'm enjoying my sleep, I'd give anything to see the Yanks still playing.....just wondering....
2005-10-17 06:43:23
55.   debris
Nope. Don't miss your Yanks. Don't miss my Red Sox. I'm enjoying thoroughly the fabulous display that the White Sox are putting on.

After watching the work of Contreras, Garland, Buehrle, and Garcia, there is no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, that the Yanks and Red Sox are quite where they deserve to be.

2005-10-17 07:10:47
56.   domvjr
After the Angels big hitters went into the tank against the White Sox, do you think they are getting eviscerated in the local press and talk radio out on the left coast!!
Last years MVP, took the apple, in both the LDS and ALCS. I guess, even the big boys,go into a slump once in awhile. Good pitching always trumps good hitters.
Notwithstanding, I still believe the Yanks should have beaten the Angels.
2005-10-17 15:20:37
57.   John from Philly
Hopefully, George and the Tampa crew are watching these League Championship games and realizing that pitching, defense and fundamental baseball, not a collection of Rotisserrie players win championships!

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