That transformation was never more evident than last night’s game between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers. The Yankees had done something few teams have been able to do. They nicked up Justin Verlander for four runs in six innings. But Ivan Nova, through a series of unfortunate events. coughed up the lead and allowed the Tigers to go back up by two runs. The Yankees would trim the lead to one thanks to an error. This is where Alex Rodriguez begins to really shine.
After hitting a homer off of Verlander and driving in another run earlier, Rodriguez came up in the eighth and faced the really tough Joaquin Benoit. In a terrific at bat, Rodriguez took what Benoit would give him and laced an opposite field single. Good base running then took him to third on Robinson Cano‘s single through the first base hole. And this is where Alex Rodriguez, the teammate took over.
Mark Teixeira hit a deep fly to center. Replays on the MLB Network coverage of the game showed Robinson Cano heading halfway to second. A-Rod, who was tagging on the play shouted at Cano who looked over at A-Rod. A-Rod gestured for him to tag up and Cano did and made it to second. The Yes Network’s play by play simply credits Cano with great base running. But it is likely that the great base running was due solely to Alex Rodriguez’s leadership on the field. By the way, the A-Rod run tied the game.
A-Rod was at the plate in the ninth with one out after Jeter had walked and went all the way to third on a wild pitch on ball four to Curtis Granderson. It seemed obvious at the time that there was no way that A-Rod wasn’t going to get the winning run in with his bat. But then the Tigers’ catcher missed the pitch and it rolled slowly to the backstop. Jeter, on third, hesitated, but A-Rod sized up the situation and frantically waved Jeter home. The winning run scored and the Yankees won the ball game.
After Jeter had scored, he wanted to high five A-Rod, but A-Rod would have none of that and bear-hugged the Yankee captain. As the celebration settled down, Alex Rodriguez could be seen walking back to the dugout with an arm around Mark Teixeira. Both men were smiling broadly. Watching all this really brought home how far Rodriguez has come with his teammates.
First of all, Rodriguez and Teixeira had played together on the Texas Rangers. The story was that the two players didn’t like each other very much. While unsure if that is true or not, there were concerns about that relationship when Teixeira signed his big contract with the Yankees. Now, whenever the two are shown together, there is camaraderie. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter are often seen sitting together in the dugout talking. And when that isn’t happening, A-Rod is in animated conversations with Hispanic players like Cano, Freddy Garcia and Eduardo Nunez.
Perhaps it goes to the days of the bombshell of the PED use that occurred a few years ago. Alex Rodriguez’s teammates stood by him during A-Rod’s admission and apology. Perhaps it was the 2009 post season when A-Rod finally came through when the Yankees needed him. Who knows. But pictures paint a thousand words and they paint a picture of an often selfish player of the past becoming a team player for perhaps the first time in his career. Rodriguez seems comfortable in his Yankee skin now. He not only fits within the framework of this Yankee team, he seems to be one of the leaders. And it is not a leadership not based on his play, but on his willingness to subvert his ego for the team.
This is a far different Alex Rodriguez we first saw in a Yankee uniform. This is a guy who is all in. He has embraced his new role and it seems his teammates have embraced him.