Ever since 2004, Alex Rodriguez had to listen to the criticism, hatred and talk of under-performing in the biggest games.
The, "You're a bum, A-Rod, you strike out in the biggest spots," or the "you're never going to be as good as Jeter is," o ther "we won't win a championship with you because you suck."
On and on. 2004. 2005. 2006. 2007. Failed Octobers with the Yankees.
In 2008, the Yankees didn't even make the playoffs, though A-Rod signed a new 10-year, $275 million dollar deal the winter before the season.
In 2009, the Yankees finished with 103 wins, were the American League East Champions and had home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
A-Rod finished with 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the 13th straight time in his career. But when October came, all eyes were on every single one of his postseason at-bats, because they needed Alex to produce—for once.
In Game One of the ALDS against the Twins, A-Rod went 2-for-4 with two huge RBI singles that helped the Yankees to a 7-2 victory. So far, off to a good start.
In Game Two of the ALDS, the Twins were up 3-1 and Joe Nathan was trying to close out the game, but A-Rod smashed a two-run home run over the wall for a game-tying home run. The Yankees went on to win that game, 4-3. Rodriguez finished 2-for-4 with three RBI.
In Game Three of the ALDS, the Twins were up 1-0 in the seventh inning and Carl Pavano was pitching strong against the Yankees. A-Rod blasted a shot off Pavano to the right field seats for a game-tying home run. The Yankees went on to win the game 4-1 and swept the Twins out of the playoffs. A-Rod finished the game 1-for-3 with an RBI.
In the ALDS, A-Rod finished 5-for-11, hitting .455 with two home runs and six RBI.
In Game One of the ALCS against the Angels, A-Rod went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk in the Yankees 4-1 win. So far, A-Rod again was off to another good start in another playoff series.
In Game Two of the ALCS, the Angels were up 3-2 in the 11th inning and trying to tie the series. However, A-Rod got a high fastball from Brian Fuentes and drilled it over the right field wall to tie the game at 3-3. The Yankees ended up winning the game 4-3 in the 13th inning. A-Rod only went 1-for-6 with an RBI, but hit another big home run in the playoffs.
In Game Three of the ALCS, the Yankees lost 5-4 in 11 innings, but in the fourth inning A-Rod drilled another home run to deep left field off Jered Weaver that at the time put the Yankees up 2-0. A-Rod finished 1-for-4 with the home run and RBI.
In Game Four of the ALCS, A-Rod had a monsterous game, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBI, including a two-run home run off Jason Bulger in a 10-1 Yankees victory.
In Game Five of the ALCS, A-Rod only went 1-for-3 with two walks in the Yankees' 7-6 loss to the Angels.
In Game Six of the ALCS, A-Rod went 2-for-2 with three walks and an RBI after being walked with the bases loaded by Joe Saunders. The Yankees ended up beating the Angels 5-2, and won the ALCS four games to two over the Angels.
In the ALCS, A-Rod finished going 9-for-21, hitting .429 with three home runs and six RBI.
Through the first two rounds of the postseason, Rodriguez is 14-for-32, hitting .437 with five home runs and 12 RBI. So far, A-Rod was having an outstanding postseason.
In Game One of the World Series, A-Rod had his first bad game of the playoffs, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against Cliff Lee. Everyone was bad against Lee, as evidenced by the Phillies winning 6-1.
In Game Two of the World Series, A-Rod again had another bad performance, going 0-for-4 with three more strikeouts. This time it was Pedro Martinez who had A-Rod fooled. However, with clutch hits and better pitching from A.J. Burnett, the Yankees won 3-1.
In Game Three of the World Series, A-Rod finally got going with an home run to right field, a two-run shot off Cole Hamels that hit off a camera and had to be reviewed by the umpires to get reversed from a double to a home run. The Yankees won the game 8-5, and A-Rod finished 1-for-2 with the home run and two RBI.
In Game Four of the World Series, A-Rod stepped up to the plate against Brad Lidge with runners on first and third and the game tied 4-4 in the ninth inning. Lidge hung Rodriguez a fastball he drilled into left field to score Johnny Damon and take a 5-4 lead. The Yankees ended up winning 7-4, and A-Rod finished 1-for-4 with the double and RBI.
In Game Five of the World Series, A-Rod lined a double down the right field line off Lee to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Phillies pounded on Burnett and Phil Coke, going up 8-2. With runners on second and third, A-Rod drilled a pitch off Lee into the left-center field gap that brought in Jeter and Damon, and the lead was cut to 8-4. The Yankees ended up losing 8-6, but A-Rod finished 2-for-4 with 3 RBI.
In Game Six of the World Series, A-Rod finished 1-for-2 with two walks, but this game was more the Hideki Matsui show and the Yankees won the game 7-3—and the World Series.
In the World Series, A-Rod finished 5-for-20, hitting .250 with one home run and six RBI.
For the entire 2009 postseason, A-Rod finished 19-for-52, hitting .365 with six home runs and 18 RBI.
For the first time in his tenure as a Yankee, Rodriguez had a great postseason from start to finish, came up with clutch hits, huge home runs and erased the memories of past failed Octobers.
When the Yankees needed A-Rod to get a big hit, he got the big hit. His biggest hit may have been the one in Game Four off Lidge that propelled the Yankees to a 3-1 lead in the World Series. A ninth-inning hit to give your team a lead in the World Series is something many will remember for years to come.
But the best of all, Alex Rodriguez has finally won a World Series. After three MVP awards, many home run titles and mega-contracts, A-Rod finally won a championship.
Nobody can ever say that A-Rod is a failure again. Nobody can call him a disappointment. Without A-Rod's bat, the Yankees don't make the run in October. Without A-Rod, 2009 doesn't happen.
The loser, failure and choke labels are over for A-Rod. A-Rod can now be classified with Scott Brosuis, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and Derek Jeter as postseason heroes for the Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez forever will now be part of Yankees history as a hero. One October full of great playoff magic wiped away the miserable past and brought a great new chapter in the storybook.
A-Rod can breathe that sigh of relief, as can the rest of Yankees Universe. Because that $275 million dollar contract the Yankees gave A-Rod in December of 2007 has paid off with a 27th World Series Championship.