Five Years In The Making, Alex Rodriguez Becomes a Yankee
It is hard to believe one series and a few swings of the bat can change someone's perspective about Rodriguez, but for the most part, that is what has happened.
Before getting into what A-Rod accomplished during the recent Red Sox series, I would like to flashback on the long road traveled by number thirteen, and fans like myself, who have been behind him since he got drafted out of High School.
In 2004, the hero of the 2003 ALCS Aaron Boone injured his leg while playing a pickup game of basketball, leaving the Yankees in search of a third baseman.
Alex Rodriguez was the guy they found.
However, there was a slight problem, Rodriguez is a shortstop, not a third baseman.
A-Rod only hit .286 that season, but still managed to hit 36 home runs and 106 runs batted in, becoming the third player in baseball history to hit at least 35 home runs, 100 runs, and 100 rbi in seven consecutive seasons.
Ironically, this is the year that the Boston Red Sox spoiled the Yankees three game lead in the ALCS and went on to shock the world.
During the playoffs in 2004, Rodriguez dominated the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS, batting .421 and managing two extra inning hits that led to Yankees victories. During the ALCS against Boston, he scored five runs during Game 3, a single-game post season record.
In 2005, A-Rod hit .321 with 48 home runs and 130 rbi to win his second MVP award and first with New York.
2006 saw Rodriguez cool off just a bit, but he still managed to hit .290 with 33 home runs. This would be the year Rodriguez would catch some attention from the New York crowd, by going 1-for-14 with four strike outs against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS.
Rodriguez became the first player in baseball history to hit 14 home runs in 18 games and tied a Major League record for most home runs in the month of April, with 14.
A-Rod would win MVP in 2007, his third in the past five seasons and second as a Yankee.
However, the Yankees were eliminated in the Division Series for the third year in a row during the playoffs, as Rodriguez's .267 average and single home run and rbi didn't do the job.
Then Rodriguez was forced to deal with the opt-out controversy during the World Series.
Rodriguez said he would like to remain a Yankee for the rest of his career during the season, but word got out just hours before the Boston Red Sox would capture their second World Title in the past three seasons that Rodriguez would be leaving the Yankees.
However, after realizing that he didn't make the best choice for him and his family, Rodriguez bypassed his agent Scott Boras' advice and received some guidance from a close personal friend and advisor, Warren Buffett.
In November of 2007, Rodriguez signed a new contract with the New York Yankees, a 10-year $275 million dollar deal and with bonus incentives if he breaks the all-time home run record in pinstripes.
Rodriguez had a quiet season in 2008, compared to his big 2007. He only launched 35 home runs but still hit above the three hundred mark with a .302 batting average.
The Yankees missed the playoffs in 2008 and then came the off season. This would bring a hip injury and admission of steroid use during the 2003 season while with the Texas Rangers.
During an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, Rodriguez said, "an enormous amount of pressure to perform" caused him to take performance enhancing drugs that year.
"Back then, [baseball] was a different culture," Rodriguez said. "It was very loose. I was young, I was stupid, and I was naïve. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful."
Rodriguez went to have a cyst drained in his hip and come to find out, he had a torn labrum that would permit him to miss the World Baseball Classic and up to three to four months of the Yankees season.
A shocking recovery found Rodriguez back with his team on May 8th of 2009 at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles, and they needed him dearly.
The Yankees were 13-15 on the year, coming off a five game losing streak and sweeps from AL East rivals, Tampa Bay and Boston.
On the first pitch A-Rod saw, he deposited it into the seats in left, giving the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first inning and they would go onto win 4-0. Since his return, the Yankees are 56-27 and have recently pulled away in the AL East with a 69-42 record overall, the best in baseball.
This year, in the seventh inning or later, Rodriguez has hit 10 home runs with a .648 slugging percentage and a 1.077 ops which is among the best in baseball. Six of A-Rod's homers have tied or given the Yankees the lead.
That is clutch my friends.
Most recently is when things really started to come together for him, during the four-game Boston Red Sox series in Yankee Stadium.
Coming into the series, the Yankees were leading the AL East by two and a half games and were 14-5 since the All Star break.
During the second game of the series, pitchers Josh Beckett and AJ Burnett battled for seven innings to a scoreless game. Over five hours after it started, the game ended up going into the bottom of the 15th inning.
In that inning with two outs and at 12:42 a.m., Rodriguez served a 2-1 pitch from Red Sox rookie pitcher Junichi Tazawa into the Bronx morning air for a epic walk-off two run homer for the Yankees victory against their hated rival.
Two days later, during the final game of the series while the Yankees were looking for the four game sweep and a six and a half game lead on Boston in the AL East, Rodriguez came through again.
He hit a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to break a scoreless game. The Yankees went on to win 5-2.
As it stands now, Rodriguez still doesn't have a ring, and the Yankees haven't won the World Series since the year 2000. But, things are headed in the right direction for A-Rod and his teammates none the less.
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