It’s a little like that old tree-in-the-forest story: What if A-Rod wins the Triple Crown and nobody notices; does it still count?
In his second season in the Bronx, Alex Rodriguez is putting up the type of numbers that are expected of him and no one else. But to this point, Rodriguez’s hitting accomplishments have been overshadowed by a) the Yankees’ abject underperformance, b) a spate of surprising early errors, c) a misjudgment by A-Rod Authenticated, his former memorabilia arm, and d) the revelation he’s seeing two therapists. But mostly a).
Sorry to play psychologist, but it’s perfectly understandable why Rodriguez would need to seek counsel. Baseball’s best-paid player also is its most underappreciated, especially in his own town, where his first uncomfortable season (.286, 36 homers, 106 RBIs) was almost universally criticized while his gigantic start in year two has been unusually underplayed. Rodriguez likes it well enough here to commit to buying spacious new digs at Trump Park Avenue (he’s moving in in December), but he’s got to wonder when his warm feelings for New York will be reciprocated.
A-Rod will tell anyone who asks that this is “the best place to play in the world.” And maybe it is. But the reality is, he isn’t getting a completely fair shake here. Anyone else puts up these numbers, they are celebrated. Anyone else threatens to win the Triple Crown (he’s tied for first with 20 home runs, first with 63 RBIs and fourth with a .322 batting average), they’re king of the city.
If Rodriguez isn’t universally embraced, it isn’t because fans are blind to his accomplishments. It has more to do with the combined burden of being the game’s most highly paid player and an overexposed, insufferable public figure. Maybe A-Rod really did save that kid from being hit by a truck. Perhaps his public admission that he’s in therapy was intended to help others, rather than improve his own image. And there’s nothing neccessarily evil in discussing when he might be retiring (even if said conversations are happening while the Yankees are struggling and A-Rod’s career is not the first thing on anyone mind). But if Rodriguez covets the sort of love and respect that Derek Jeter receives from an adoring public, he could always let his numbers speak for themselves.