If Alex Rodriguez thought the constant booing from the home crowd was getting out of control, wait until he returns to Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night from one of the worst road trips of his career.
“New York’s stuck with him and he’s stuck with New York,” former Yankee great Reggie Jackson said. “He’s not going to get traded and he’s not going to go anywhere. We’re stuck with each other.”
Jackson, a special adviser to owner George Steinbrenner, was with the club during the final leg of its 11-game, three-city road trip. The Hall of Famer witnessed a brutal series against the Los Angeles Angels in which Rodriguez went 1-for-15 and struck out 10 times.
It was as if A-Rod had suddenly become K-Rod.
“Sure, I’m disappointed about going 1-for-15 or whatever the line may be, but you’ve got to move on and keep grinding,” said Rodriguez, in the sixth year of a record $10-year, $252 million contract.
“It’s frustrating because I feel strong and I feel healthy. It was an awful series for me, personally. I’m very proud of the way this team played collectively, but I wish I would have done more to contribute.”
Rodriguez is one of three players to hit 100 or more homers for three teams, joining Jackson and Darrell Evans. His slump has mystified manager Joe Torre, hitting coach Don Mattingly and general manager Brian Cashman, who brought Rodriguez to New York in February 2004 to help the Yankees win their first World Series title since 2000.
They’re still waiting.
Rodriguez helped get them to the playoffs the past two years, and earned his second AL MVP award last season with 48 homers, 130 RBIs and a .321 average. But in the division series against the Angels, he went 2-for-15 with no RBIs. In his own words he “played like a dog.”
After this latest trip to Anaheim, it was time to reach for the Alpo again. But it doesn’t appear management is giving up on Rodriguez, whose fielding at third base also has been mocked by Yankee Stadium fans this year.
“We all lose confidence, and he has to lose confidence in this situation. He’s human,” Jackson said. “But he’s not going to sit down. He’s not going to miss days, and they’re not going to put somebody else in there for him. So he’s going to have to get better. He doesn’t have any choice.”
Jackson knows from his playing days how fickle Yankee fans can be. One minute, he was a villain for dissing captain Thurman Munson and calling himself “the straw that stirs the drink.” The next minute, he was a hero for hitting three home runs in a World Series clincher and getting a candy bar named after him. Then he was a villain again for trying to fight manager Billy Martin in the dugout and getting suspended by Martin for not obeying a bunt sign.
Rodriguez hasn’t reached such extremes. All he’s doing is striking out at an alarming pace for a 10-time All-Star with 455 career home runs. He has fanned 125 times after setting a career high last season with 139.
On Tuesday night, the start of a six-game homestand for the AL East leaders, he’ll face a Yankee Stadium crowd of about 55,000.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Rodriguez, whose average has slipped to .297, is 4-for-28 over his last seven games with 16 strikeouts and 19 runners left on base. But his professional attitude persists.
“It’s important for me to play well down the stretch for this team, and in October. And I still have that chance,” Rodriguez said. “When I play well and do the things I’m supposed to do, this team is going to go to another level.”
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