The Newark Star Ledger’s Dan Graziano takes on that shrinking wallflower, Alex Rodriguez.

Contrary to what’s being reported, Alex Rodriguez did not show up in the Yankees’ clubhouse at Legends Field yesterday.

In fact, it has been a year now since the Yankees traded for Rodriguez, and they’re still waiting for him to show up.

What A-Rod did yesterday, when he put on his trademark look of false sincerity and spent 16 minutes spinning clichés, was the verbal equivalent of going 2-for-17 in the final four games of the ALCS when your team needs to win only one. He had a chance to show his tough side, if he has one, to the incessantly chirping Boston Red Sox, his own Yankee teammates and (maybe most importantly) his fans, and he passed it up.

Now, once again, as we were at the end of his unsatisfying debut Yankees season, we are left to wonder just how tough this guy is.

Some, including Rodriguez, will say he’s just doing his part to fit in as a coolly professional Yankee. But whether the Yankees like it or not, their rivalry with the Red Sox has become a street fight, and you have to get dirty to win those.

Imagine the way the Red Sox are going to receive this pitiful non-response. When an opposing pitcher hits you with a pitch, and you don’t get angry (and your teammates don’t stand up for you, as Rodriguez’s haven’t here), that pitcher has reason to believe he can keep doing it. Rodriguez’s nonchalance should have the same impact on the Red Sox.

The question is: Why won’t he take them on?

“Our approach here is, and I’m getting to understand this more and more, we don’t get into the back-and-forth bulletin-board stuff,” Rodriguez said. “If you look at my track record, I’ve never done that.”

But that last part is, quite simply, false. Rodriguez actually has a somewhat extensive history of bulletin-board stuff. Examples:

Jan. 21, 2005: In a conference call with reporters, Rodriguez accused Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling of “crying on the bench” after losses to the Yankees and spoke of an enhanced desire to “beat him up in the future.”

November 2003: In a conference call to announce his selection as MVP, Rodriguez was asked four times about his relationship with Texas Rangers manager Buck Showalter. All four times, he simply said, “No comment.”

Spring 2001: In a story in “Esquire” magazine, Rodriguez took on shortstop Derek Jeter, saying Jeter had “never had to lead” and was “never your concern” as an opponent.

December 12, 2000: In a news conference to announce his signing of his $252 million contract with Texas, Rodriguez ripped into the Mets and then-GM Steve Phillips for failing to make an effort to sign him. “I wish I can play against Steve Phillips’ team and lead 24 guys to beat ’em up,” he said.

So where’s that feisty, scrappy guy now? If ever that Alex Rodriguez had an opportunity to show up and start swinging, it would be now, when he’s under assault from every Red Sox player who walks through the clubhouse doors in Fort Myers.

(Update : For those who rightly wonder, “what is up with the Red Sox and why can’t they just shut up about A-Rod?”, consider Murray Chass’ thoughtful piece entitled “Ask Stupid Questions, Get Distorted Answers”)