Let me start by saying that I would love for Alex Rodriguez to simply go away. There's almost nothing enjoyable about discussing the guy. But with A-Rod once again at the forefront of a disappointing Yankees postseason, it's impossible to ignore him.
When it comes to A-Rod, there's this lie that Yankees fans have been clinging to for years now. It's born of the fact that so many current fans came of age in the glorious days of the late '90's, and they cling to the notion that those were the true Yankees. Guys like Paulie, Scotty, Bernie and Tino. True Yankees are hard-nosed. They're tough. They're clutch.
It's through this prism in which the hatred of Alex Rodriguez that has been so constant during his time in New York begins to make sense. The truth is that the Yankees ARE A-Rod, they just would rather not admit it.
There could be no better personification of the Yankees over the last decade than Rodriguez. An expensive, steroid-riddled, wildly successful and talented team that often struggles to produce in the clutch. That IS the Yankees.
But the Yankees don't want to accept this. Why? Because it's not particularly satisfying. No one wants to be the overdog. It's why there's been such an obsession with the "Core Four," the idea that the core of the Yankees over the past ten years has been Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, as though the team hasn't been equally built around big-money acquisitions like Giambi, Sheffield, Teixeira, Mussina, Sabathia and yes, A-Rod. The Yankees have been a team of mercenaries for years now.
Which is part of what makes it no surprise that we witnessed a fan base this postseason expressing almost complete contempt for the home team during an ALCS. No one loves these guys. No one feels a connection to them. The vibe was so bad in the Bronx during this postseason that several Yankees acknowledged they were looking forward to getting to Detroit. Nick Swisher was positively stunned that all his smiles and laughter hadn't bought him more equity with his beloved Bleacher Creatures. Has there ever been a team that made it so far with a fan base who so openly loathed them?
And Alex Rodriguez is the very embodiment of this phenomenon. If you followed the media narrative surrounding his time in New York you would think it has been a complete disaster. Fans of the team act as though rooting for him has been some kind of hardship to be endured. This is despite the fact that during his nine seasons in New York he's won two MVP's and carried the team to a World Series. Had a player done that for the crosstown Mets over the same span he'd have a statue in center field.
Aside from the immense success, there's also just the day in, day out enjoyment of watching Alex Rodriguez play. We've all seen this guy play baseball, right? It's incredible. A-Rod has one of those swings that looks like he was born in a batter's box. His physique appears carved out of some textbook of how a baseball player should look. His every move is a study in perfection. He is enormously enjoyable to watch play baseball.
Which isn't to say that the contempt A-Rod inspires isn't his fault. Certainly, he has to shoulder plenty of the blame. For one, he HAS had numerous miserable postseasons. Not just ones in which he struggled in big spots, but entire playoffs in which he has been completely invisible and ineffective. I can't imagine anyone has made more last outs in playoff games over the last nine years than Rodriguez. I understand it's incredibly frustrating.
Off the field, he's just kind of weird. There's simply something you don't like about him. Whether it's an insincerity, or a penchant for winding up in an unflattering spread in the New York Post, he has a quality that makes him easy to not like. He may or may not have a painting of himself as a centaur, but the mere fact that it sounds totally plausible is damning enough.
Now, after another dismal postseason, this one coming with a new kind of humiliation, everyone wants A-Rod run out of town. Yankees fans want to end all this once and for all, to purge themselves of a player they've never embraced, one they've never felt was really one of them.
But it's time to finally put to bed the idea that A-Rod is not a "True Yankee." Alex Rodriguez is the truest Yankee. No matter how much it'd be preferred to say Derek Jeter is the face of the Yankees, he isn't. Alex Rodriguez IS the Yankees. Overpriced, underappreciated and completely unlovable.