William Rhoden weighed in on A-Rod in today’s New York Times. He writes:
We began reading and hearing that A-Rod was a changed man. How did that happen?
Some speculated that it was the finality of his divorce, others that it was the tearful February news conference in Tampa with teammates looking on. Still others said the author of Rodriguez’s renaissance was Kate Hudson.
But A-Rod is not the one who has changed. He is the same guy.
There it is. So many columnists and bloggers and fans weighed in on the new, relaxed A-Rod this year that it essentially became fact. The perception even seeped its way into news articles that read like a bad comedian at open-mic night.
“Women are like this; men are like this. Last year’s A-Rod was like this, this year’s A-Rod is like this.”
Did A-Rod really spend less time worrying about reporters, or did reporters spend less time worrying about A-Rod?
So many have suggested that he cast away the distractions and focused on baseball in 2009. Then in the next breath, they mention how clearly happy he is with his new Hollywood starlet girlfriend.
If A-Rod had failed in the postseason, would Kate Hudson still be the magic charm of relaxation, or would she be another cursed complication?
Of course we see signs that A-Rod is different now and somehow better. You know why? Because we’re looking for them. Because we want to find them. Because now he had a bunch of clutch hits, and we’re looking for an explanation better than randomness.
But there isn’t one. A-Rod is a great hitter who happened to struggle in a few consecutive postseasons. This year, he performed as a great hitter, because that’s what great hitters usually do.
Slumps and streaks are part of baseball. They’re not indicative of some massive psychological overhaul, just baseball.
The good news is that now a three-time MVP and 12-time All-Star, the owner of 583 Major League home runs, can finally lose some labels he never deserved.
He’ll keep others, of course, like “juicer” and “adulterer” and “centaur.” But regardless of how we choose to judge those, they’re ones he earned.
Just A-Rod being A-Rod, really.