Who dares question the baseball IQ of Alex Rodriguez? Gunned down by Toronto’s Lyle Overbay in the 9th inning of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss at the Rogers Centre, the Yankee third baseman tells the Daily News’ Mark Feisand that he’s been unfairly criticized, despite, as the scribe so wonderfully put it, this incident being “the second time in less than two weeks that Rodriguez was cut down while representing the tying or go-ahead run.”

“One thing I learned from Joe Torre and Lou Piniella was that a manager will never get mad at you for playing the game right, hustling and making an aggressive mistake,” Rodriguez said before Wednesday night’s win over Toronto. “They’ll get mad at you if you don’t push the envelope.”

A-Rod’s hustle – or lack thereof – was a popular topic on sports radio Wednesday, as replays showed the third baseman pause before leaving the batter’s box. Rodriguez shot down the theory that he wasn’t going all-out, explaining his momentary hesitation.

“There was a delay because I didn’t know where the ball was,” Rodriguez said, adding that he initially thought it was a foul ball. “Usually when there’s a lack of hustle, it’s not in the ninth inning down by one. Whoever is saying that doesn’t know about baseball. That doesn’t bother me one bit.”

Said Joe Girardi: “It looked like he was out-of-whack from the beginning. A lot of times when you get jammed, you’re not sure where you hit it. I remember (Paul) O’Neill used to hit balls and he’d have no idea where he hit them. We’d be screaming for him to run.”
Once Rodriguez realized where his ball was headed, he bolted out of the box and headed for first. Thinking he had a double all the way, A-Rod turned for second.

“I made a really wide turn around first. That’s what I’m guilty of,” Rodriguez said. “My only regret is that I wish I would have picked up the ball right away and had a better turn. That guy just made an unbelievable play.”

Sidney Ponson gave the Yankees all of 32 pitches tonight (2 innings pitched), with a quarter of ’em ending up as base hits for the Blue Jays. New York currently trails Toronto, 5-0, and the Journal News’ Peter Abraham figures, “unless a walrus sneaks in from the tundra and attacks Roy Halladay in the dugout sometime in the next few innings, there is no chance the Yankees win this game.”  I think an “A-Team”-style invasion led by Tim Johnson is somewhat more likely.

The only description sadder than being called “Lenny Kravitz’ former manager?”  Lenny Kravitz’ manager.