When Mariano Rivera went down, this New York Yankees team was thought to have gone down with him. For the first time in 16 years, the team would be without the greatest relief pitcher all-time. Rafael Soriano stepped up to fill the void, putting to rest any questions about the teams ability to close games. Now, Derek Jeter is the latest Yankee icon to fall, suffering a broken ankle in last night’s tough loss to Detroit in Game One of the ALCS.
It is now time for the Yankees’ longest active tenured position player to wake up: Alex Rodriguez. That’s right, Alex Rodriguez. The spotlight is his for the taking.
I know most of the team isn’t hitting, the numbers have been analyzed and discussed ad nauseum. But for A-Rod, this is his chance to be “the guy” for once.
He came to New York in 2004 in a blockbuster trade from the Texas Rangers, and agreed to play third base to allow Jeter to continue to play shortstop. Fans were worried that A-Rod would steal the spotlight from Jeter, for Jeter was the homegrown kid, true Yankee, who grew up before everybody’s eyes. Then here comes A-Rod, the big ego, big contract, big numbers. There was no way he could be a Yankee, fans thought (and still believe). Now almost nine years later, the opposite has happened; Jeter stole the spotlight from A-Rod. Jeter’s stardom keeps going up, as fans appreciate him more, as he passes milestones and all-time greats. A-Rod’s stardom is diminishing, as he continues to struggle in situations where most fans feel like they can do better.
Now without Jeter in the postseason picture, it’s just A-Rod, all by himself on the left-side of the infield. He keeps talking about how he’s a leader on the team, a leader in the clubhouse for the younger guys. Now is the time for him to step up, and remember who he is. If he is going to fail, fail trying. If he is going to run away from this opportunity, and look over his shoulder like he did last night to check if Girardi is going to pinch-hit for him, then his Yankee career and relationship with the fans will be broken, and awfully tough to repair.
A-Rod put the team on his back in 2009, carrying them to a World Series championship. Many thought that would solidify him as a Yankee. Before 2009, fans believed that in order for him to be a true Yankee, he had to win a World Series and be a huge part in it. Well, that happened, and now a days, it feels as if 2009 never happened by the way this guy gets treated.
It’s time for A-Rod to look in the mirror and want to succeed. If somehow, someway, this guy can play a huge part in getting the Yankees to the World Series WITHOUT help from Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, then his spot with the Yankees will be etched in stone. If he continues to fade away and go down quietly, the rest of his Yankee career may never be the same.