|Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post|
Now, if I were writing this two years ago after the 2009 season, I would never make this statement. After winning the American League MVP Award in '03, '05 and '07, and after pretty much carrying the Yankees to their 27th World Championship, I began to believe that an odd-numbered season meant a great season for A-Rod. But that theory was dispelled in 2011; the worst season of his career.
The nagging right knee injury, jammed thumb and faulty left shoulder all conspired to produce a 99-game, 16 home run and 62 RBI record that was nowhere in the vicinity of the A-Rod standard. And forget about the postseason, although, I give Alex credit for trying his best to battle through these injuries that were obviously more of a hinderance than he or the team let on.
"I know Yankee fans were disappointed last year," Alex told The New York Post, "But [they] won't be next year."
Here, here, Alex!! And I believe you.
Alex had a strong start in 2011, hitting .284 in April with 18 RBIs and 5 homers. And as solid as these numbers were, they were but a mere continuance of the fantastic Spring Training numbers he posted. By the way, I was down in Spring Training last year for a home game against the Pirates and I can tell you that of all the Yankees players, Alex stood out for me. There was something about his demeanor; he seemed extremely focused, almost to the point where he looked angry. And I loved it! The aloof, sometimes awkward superstar was dogged and unrelenting in his movement and it showed in his game.
And why was he so focused? Spring Training doesn't count, let's be honest, but I believe that Alex was still reeling from the ALCS loss to Texas in '10. Texas completely dominated the Yankees in every aspect of the game: offense, defense and managerial. And of course, Alex would be the guy left "holding the bag," striking out looking at the plate, and recording the final out.
There lies the madness. This is how A-Rod functions. He wallows to his lowest depth and then uses it as motivation. We've seen this so often, fanatics. Having his best season, an AL MVP season, in '07 after falling to the bottom of Joe Torre's lineup in the playoffs in '06; his prior MVP season in '05 after the humiliating loss to the Red Sox in the ALCS of '04; his ferocious comeback in '09 with the first pitch, first hit three-run homer against the Orioles after returning from hip surgery and the infamous steroid admission, and again, leading the Yankees to the championship. A-Rod functions off of misery and finds a way to turn things around.
So yes, I believe that this may be the season of A-Rod. With all of the "stuff" that has happened throughout his career, even in seasons where his numbers weren't so A-Rodesque, he's never had as ineffective a season as his last. This makes for the perfect comeback storm. He has more to pr ove than any other player on the team, and not just to the fans but to himself. His interview with The Post sounded to me like Alex had really taken some time to reflect so that he could admit his failures and declare war on them. Weight loss, an extended, more stringent workout regimen are the immediate plan, but I believe even moreso, that Alex has comes to terms with his age and will tweek what he was able to do in years past to compliment that.
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