As I happily reported the news that Alex Rodriguez had won the AL MVP to Yankee fans around the office yesterday, more than a few rolled their eyes and immediately made a disparaging remark about his performance against the Angels in the ALDS. Today, the back page of the Daily News reads, "More Bling (But No Ring)" while the Post screams "MVP But...Lack of rings rarnishes A-Rod's second AL trophy."
Rodriguez is the first Yankee to win an MVP since Don Mattingly nabbed it in 1985, and is the fourth player to win the award at two different positions. Jeez, I don't recall there being so many qualifiers when Mattingly won. No, for this kind of contempt and lack of appreciation you've got to think back on how Darryl Strawberry, or Rickey Henderson or Dave Winfield were often treated in New York. Nothing they did was ever good enough. Give us a World Serious championship or You Stink. Wa-wa-wah. Sometimes New Yorkers are nothing but a bunch of big babies.
Forget about the fact the fact that Rodriguez has just recorded the two best seasons ever by a Yankee third baseman. Sir, he's no Derek Jeter (nevermind that his regular season numbers against the Red Sox for the past two years are better than the captains, or the fact that Jeter's two Gold Glove awards can be partly attributed to Rodriguez's arrival at the hot corner). Rodriguez is a playoff bust. Nevermind the fact that he sported a .330 career playoff average going into the post-season this year. Forget the great series he had against the Twins in the ALDS in 2004. Let's just recall how he did in the last four games against Boston in 2004, not the first three games. Let's gloss over how poorly Matsui and Sheffield performed over that span. As a matter of fact, let's forget everything Rodriguez has brought to New York but his failures.
When he won the award in 2003 it didn't count because he played for a bad Rangers team, this year it doesn't count because the Bombers didn't win the World Serious. Mike Lupica, who has criticized the Yankees in recent years for being joyless, and Yankee fans for buying into Steinbrenner's culture of entitlement, is just one of manylocal columnists who doesn't appreciate what Rodriguez has done in New York. He focuses on what he hasn't done. Man, Lupica kind of sounds like...a typical Yankee fan, doesn't he?
Look, I'm not saying that Rodriguez is the most likable player in town. In fact, I understand why it is easy not to like him. I also think that there is some truth to the notion that he can tense-up in big situations. Not always, but sometimes. But man, if a player ever has to have a flaw, I'd rather it be because he's trying too hard and not hard enough. Regardless, Rodriguez's performance in big games isn't as poor as Barry Bonds' was for many years, or even Mike Schmidt's for a few years there. In fact, you can check the record books and find any number of great players--including the likes of Mickey Mantle--who had horrible post seasons. The point is, the coverage Rodriguez has received has been grossly unfair. Moreover, it is sad when we can't recognize a player's accomplishments because we are so fixated on what they haven't yet accomplished. Yeah, yeah, I know, it comes with the territory with Rodriguez. But does it have to come with the territory for us as fans too?