The Rehab from Hell

by Kenny Ducey
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Keith Allison/Flickr

How A-Rod Garnered Sympathy, without Doing Anything

When you get an update sent to your phone that one of Alex Rodriguez’s rehab games in AA-Trenton has been rained out, there’s a problem.

The injured Yankees third baseman has been a magnet to criticism ever since he managed just three hits in 25 ABs last postseason, yet somehow he’s turned into something of a good guy.

When Rodriguez practically won a World Series for the Yankees in 2009 (let’s be honest, they don’t get it without him), he was arguably the most-loved athlete in New York. When he struck out to end the 2011 ALDS against Detroit, he was probably the most-hated. But over the past year or so, regardless of a minority who will always hate A-Rod for one reason or another, there really hasn’t been a consensus opinion about him, with the exception of a couple weeks this Spring when it appeared he was nearing at least a 50-game suspension for steroid use.

Last season Rodriguez went down with a hand injury in late July, and the Yankees stumbled. They went 18-18, including a 10-game stretch where they lost 7 games shortly before his return. Eric Chavez was thought to have been a capable replacement, yet the team clearly wasn’t the same without Rodriguez. Because of this, the club rushed A-Rod back to the majors, even though he’d been performing very poorly in rehab games. His power never reached its first-half level.

And, while Yankees fans were generally excited Rodriguez was hit on the hand by Felix Hernandez and placed on the Disabled List July 24th, by the end of his 36-game absence, there was a sense of eagerness to get him back in the lineup, even if fans didn’t want to admit it.

That same sort of feeling stares those same fans in the face today, as the Yankees struggle to return to the offensive powerhouse they were just a couple of seasons back. Heading into the weekend, Yankees third basemen had an On-Base Percentage of just .291. To make matters worse, the guy they signed to stabilize the situation at first and third, Kevin Youkilis, is on the DL. Yankee fans may be mad at A-Rod for mixing himself up in a steroid scandal once again, but they want him back deep down.

And on top of that, Rodriguez’s rehab assignment is getting more coverage than the Pirates’ miraculous season, which just isn’t fair to the Buckos – or New York. While it’s understandable, because he’s a polarizing figure and perennial huge story, it’s become ridiculous. Pundits are arguing over a player who hasn’t seen the field all year like he’s hitting either Ike Davis bad or Mike Trout good. And because of it all, lots of fans have begun to quit believing A-Rod will either save or destroy the Yankees’ 2013 season.

In a strange twist, the press has actually been good for Rodriguez. He’s taken the opportunity to be cool with the media, and actually seem like a likeable guy again, telling USA Today “I'm the (expletive) crazy man who goes, 'I want to compete. I want to stay in New York. I refuse to quit.” He remains confident in his ability to help the team, and seemingly unfazed by more steroid allegations. He’s even helping out his minor league teammates along the way.

Also helping his ‘good guy’ cause is Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who I’m sure had plans to the contrary. By cursing out A-Rod through the media, he suddenly brought all the heat upon himself. And for what? An innocent tweet sent by Rodriguez, who was simply excited to re-join the team after his doctor cleared him for baseball activity. Suddenly Cashman was being too mean towards A-Rod, and completely out of line for doing something so detrimental to the team in public.

Think about that for just a second. The same fans who screamed words not fit for a child’s ears at Rodriguez, the same fans who screamed “BOO!” to the heavens, the same fans who whined about him on the internet, suddenly think Brian Cashman made a bad decision. The same guy who they’ve anointed as instrumental in many of the team’s World Series victories is now doing the wrong thing for criticizing A-Rod in public. Would these fans bite their tongue in the media when it came to Rodriguez? I’ve got my money on no.

All of the sudden some people are not only considering the fact A-Rod may help the Yankees, but embracing it. And all Alex Rodriguez had to do was say positive things.

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