It’s not an easy question to answer, as many great players struggle at times in the postseason spotlight. Some guys in the postseason have a tendency to back off, while others step forward. You want to be one of those guys who steps forward.
Take Alex Rodriguez for instance. His overall numbers in the playoffs aren’t bad: He has hit .279 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in 39 games. But his time in New York, where the spotlight always shines the brightest, has not been a success. In his last four playoff series with the Yankees prior to Wednesday's Game 1 against the Twins, Rodriguez was .200 with three homers and six RBIs.
A-Rod did manage to break out a bit Wednesday, going 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
Most importantly to Yankees fans, he hasn’t won a World Series ring. He has hit 583 home runs in his career, but people seem to remember the lack of titles and playoff success the most. That has got to leave a bad taste in his mouth.
I get the impression that Rodriguez puts a tremendous amount of pressure on himself and forgets to actually enjoy the postseason. He pays too much attention to what people say about him, and there are a lot of people who are jealous of him, a lot of people in the media who like to bring up his past and try to bring him down.
He has to remember to enjoy the playoffs and have fun, and I think as he gets older, he is doing that. He has to realize there are other guys on his team, and he shouldn’t feel like the world is on his shoulders.
Rodriguez and Yankees teammates CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira and A.J. Burnett don’t have to look far to find great examples of postseason success. Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera — and Andy Pettitte as well — are the guys they can look to, the guys they can feed off of.
When I played, I had pretty good success in the postseason, going 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in eight games, six of them starts. I was lucky to get my feet wet with the Twins in 1970 as a 19-year old. My experiences later helped me when in 1979 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and 1987 back with the Twins, I helped my teams win World Series championships.
I had great teammates to learn from, guys like Willie Stargell and Kirby Puckett. Those two really stood out in particular, as they set a perfect example to follow in the playoffs. Puckett and Stargell could raise their games to the next level. You could see it in their eyes that they were living the dream and wanted to make the most out of it.
I remember in 1987, the positive attitude was contagious. Everyone wanted to do their part. In the World Series that year against the St. Louis Cardinals, Frank Viola was to start Game 7, with myself in the bullpen ready to come in if needed. I joked with Frank before the game that if I had to come in, I was going to end up stealing the series-clinching win from him. Well in the second inning he gave up a couple runs and I started warming up. Frank settled down and pitched a great game, and he later said that seeing me down there kind of woke him up, and he decided he wasn’t going to let me come into the game.
Baseball playoffs: Day 15
Check out all the best action from the MLB playoffs.
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