Bob Klapisch weighs in on Alex Rodriguez today -
You had to listen hard, really hard, but there was no mistaking the boos that sprinkled over Alex Rodriguez like a light mist in the ninth inning. He had failed (again) to convert on a chance for career home run No. 600, and the crowd, already irritable from A.J. Burnett’s collapse, had finally reached its breaking point.
Yes, a small number of fans really did turn against Rodriguez, who’s gone 43 at-bats since his last home run with no sign of a breakthrough. His swing has become choppy and mechanical. Pitchers are challenging him without fear. Fastballs are beating Rodriguez in the heart of the strike zone.
Those are the red flags a hitting instructor sees. Joe Girardi, however, picks up on the body language of his troubled slugger. It’s those deep breaths A-Rod takes before he steps into the batter’s box: They’ve become so exaggerated even the Lamaze handbook would consider them a hazard. It’s not an encouraging sign for a slugger looking to make history.
This extended drought is bound to raise questions about Rodriguez’s long-term resiliency. It’s crazy to even ask, but the Yankees have to wonder which A-Rod will be occupying the cleanup spot in the postseason.
Will it be the one who was practically unstoppable last October, the one who hit six home runs with 18 RBI? The one who finally broke through as a mainstream Yankee? Rodriguez finally had turned off the spigot on his narcissism, trading in the ego for a World Series ring. Taking down Barry Bonds’ home run was the next soft target.
But the quest for No. 600 has peeled away a few layers of A-Rod’s psychological flesh, revealing the anxious, self-doubting A-Rod of old. Forty-three at-bats are too many to blame bad mechanics. It’s all about anxiety now, nourishing itself one failed plate appearance at a time.
Rodriguez actually is fighting a two-front war, both against his nerves and Mother Nature. At 35, he’s clearly begun his decline phase – evidenced by a 62 at-bat home run drought earlier this season and one that spanned 72 at-bats in 2009. Before 2010, Rodriguez averaged one home run every 14 at-bats; this year that ratio has plummeted to one every 23.
He’s reached the age that, without chemicals and amphetamines, the muscles no longer fire as quickly. Recovery takes longer. He tires more easily. That, coupled with the stress of the last two weeks, A-Rod’s bat feels heavier, although he’s desperate enough for positive signs to have said, “I thought I swung the bat a little better [Monday].”
Two lines here really caught my attention:
…But the quest for No. 600 has peeled away a few layers of A-Rod’s psychological flesh, revealing the anxious, self-doubting A-Rod of old…
…He’s reached the age that, without chemicals and amphetamines, the muscles no longer fire as quickly. Recovery takes longer. He tires more easily. That, coupled with the stress of the last two weeks, A-Rod’s bat feels heavier…
So, what do you think? Do you agree with what Bob’s saying here? Why?
Me? I think they’re both valid points. I’m not saying they’re correct – because I don’t know. Yet, I think they’re at least worth examining and discussing, etc. But, I would be interested in hearing how others feel on this as well.