Offseason spending puts extra pressure on A-Rod

Corey Marine

It will be a few months before CC Sabathia officially becomes the first pitcher to throw a pitch at the new Yankee Stadium. There’s some time before the start of the season, but the Yankees have still managed to dominate the headlines.

It all started with the Yankees missing the playoffs in the last year of the “House that Ruth Built.” Then, there was excitement over the new stadium. The Yanks later went on to sign the three biggest free agents on the market and, despite the economic climate, spent over a quarter of a billion dollars on putting A.J. Burnett, Sabathia and Mark Teixeira in pinstripes. Most recently, one of the most-beloved figures in Yankees history has written a book about his time in the Bronx. Joe Torre’s new book, “The Yankee Years,” has been the hot topic of late, especially the sections that mention his relationship with his former players. If you look closely enough, all of these things have one thing in common-they all connect to the Yankees’ infamous third baseman, Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has never been accepted in New York and probably will not be until he wins a championship in pinstripes. Despite having two MVP seasons during his tenure with the Bronx Bombers, he will never be revered in the same light as his infield counterpart Derek Jeter. All of the recent activity surrounding the Yankees will not make life any easier for him either.

With the free agent signings, as well as the return of veteran pitchers such as Brian Bruney and Andy Pettitte, the Yankees have become favorites to win the World Series this season. Amid this group of superstars, Rodriguez is playing the hot corner and is batting in the clean-up spot. He will most likely be hitting behind Teixeira, meaning he will probably get many more pitches to hit this upcoming season than he did last year. Add that to being the highest-paid player in the Major Leagues, and Rodriguez finds himself in one of the most pressure-packed situations in all professional sports.

If success does not come early and often, the fans could be on his back all season. If the Yankees make the postseason, chances are that he will not receive much of the credit. If the Yankees end the regular season with the best record in the AL East, arguably the toughest division in all of baseball, it will be because of the pitching rotation, and the man batting in the No. 4 slot will barely be mentioned.

However, if New York loses in the postseason, it will be because A-Rod could not come up with timely hits. Forget about the other eight batters in the lineup. If the Yankees do not make the postseason at all, Yankee fans will place the blame squarely on his shoulders. It will be because the pitching was sub-par, but that is not what the media will focus on. It will be because A-Rod could not carry the team offensively. Every strikeout and error will be magnified, because as the highest-paid player on the team with the highest payroll, perfection is demanded every day.

Rodriguez will get no sympathy from Yankee fans, though not according to what Torre has to say. Torre brought four championships to the City of New York. How many ticker tape parades have there been down Broadway since A-Rod landed in the Bronx? One-for the New York Giants. If Torre said that Rodriguez could not fit in, it must be true. According to Torre’s book, a nickname for Rodriguez in the clubhouse was “A-Fraud.” A story that has been circulating among the media is one that says that the skipper told the third baseman to get his own coffee. Rodriguez got his own coffee and told Torre. A-Rod simply did not get it. He needed to learn to be one of the guys.

This may be a huge public relations hit for Rodriguez. As a player who has built his public persona on political correctness and cordiality, the idea of him being a clubhouse elitist has a negative effect for that persona. Add what was also described as an unhealthy obsession with Jeter, and A-Rod’s reputation could be at stake.

Not only is this man’s life on the field documented and examined with a fine-toothed comb, his life off of it is also put under a microscope. Stories of a stint with Madonna leading to his divorce have also circulated among the tabloids. Being average will not satisfy. There is no avoiding the spotlight or the headlines. If he fails, we will know. If he succeeds, we will also know. New York will either love or hate him. Which will it be? We will know after a swing of his bat.

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Corey Marine is a junior communication major from New York, N.Y. He can be reached at [email protected]