He’s a 3-time MVP. Since his first full season, he’s only had one year in which he finished lower than 15th in the MVP voting. He has more homeruns than Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle or Ted Williams and he’s only 33. He has a higher career slugging percentage than Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, and Hank Aaron. He’s won a batting title and finished in the top 10 three times. He’s a .306 career hitter. He’s finished in the top ten in OBP eight times and has a career OBP of .389. He’s won 2 Gold Gloves..at shortstop. He’s scored 100 runs in every full season he’s played and driven in 100 in every full season except one. He’s a member of the 40-40 club. His 162-game averages are: 191 Hits, 128 Runs, 44 HRs, 127 RBIs, and 23 SBs. Statistically, Alex Rodriguez isn’t just one of the best players in baseball today, he’s one of the greatest players in baseball history. So why haven’t Yankee fans embraced him?
To be sure, A-Rod has his share of fans, especially amongst younger fans. His jerseys sell very well and many children can be seen wearing number 13 on their backs during Yankee games. However, while Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux told us that “chicks dig the long ball’ a trip to Yankee Stadium will quickly show that women prefer Jeter. Listening to talk radio in the NY area shows that the guys also prefer Jeter.
Some fans will point to A-Rod’s personal life and recent accusations of infidelity that have led to his wife filing for divorce, but Yankee fans have a long history of welcoming alcoholics, drug addicts, and womanizers. Others will accuse him of being a selfish player – more concerned with his own persnal stats than winning – forgetting that he switched positions in order to come to the Yankees and have a perennial chance at winning the World Series. Of course, the love that Yankee fans have shown to Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson seem to contradict his “selfishness” as the reason he hasn’t been the fan favorite you would expect.
The last name mentioned above gets to the heart of the matter. When the spotlight was on him, it seemed that no one came through more than Reggie Jackson. Mr. October’s career batting average was .262, but he batted nearly 100 points higher at .357 in 5 World Series. A-Rod has played in 5 post-season series with the Yankees. The Yankees have won only one of those series. He batted .421 in that series against the Twins. Since then his batting average has been dismal, especially when compared to his career average. He batted .258 against the Red Sox, .133 against the Angels in ’05, .071 against the Tigers in ’06, and .267 against the Indians last year.
So it seems clear that A-Rod has been futile in the playoffs, but has that really been the case? A closer look shows that his with the exception of ’06 when he didn’t walk and posted an OBP of .071 (even Babe Ruth went into slumps occasionally), his OBP for each of the series respectively has been .476, .378, .381, and .353.
What do the numbers tell us? Some other stats may help shed some light on the situation. With 2 outs and RISP this year he’s batting .250, but his OBP is .451. In late and close situations he’s batting .262, but his OBP is .364. He’s batting .283 in tie games, .285 in games where the difference in score is < 1 run and .279 when the difference is < 2 runs. His OBP is consistently in the .380s and .390s for all situations where the score is within 4 runs, but in games where the difference is > 4 runs he’s batting .393.
So all this proves that A-Rod can’t hit in pressure situations, right? Not really. Looking at A-Rod’s numbers this year he’s batting .361 in wins and .243 in losses. I believe that opposing teams have figured out that the way to beat the Yankees is not to allow A-Rod to beat you. Therefore they’ve been extremely careful in pitching to him in these close situations. There’s not much glory in getting a walk in key situations, but he’s been willing to take them.
I have to admit that I began writing this with the thoughts of proving that A-Rod has not been good in these clutch situations, but after doing the research I’ve changed my mind. By the way, while I was writing this I saw A-Rod score the first run of the game on an aggresive base-running play (some would call it a base-running mistake, but it worked out) and then hit a 3-run HR when the Yankees were leading 1-0.