Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Ring is the Thing Now for Rodriguez

Jay Greenberg
New York Post

November 20, 2007 -- Alex Rodriguez insisted that he got out of the business of saying only what he believed people wanted to hear in 2006.

"Being honest was the best policy, took a lot of weight off my shoulders," he said. "The truth will set you free."

Then, on the advice of ego and agent, he opted out of a contract that had three years to run in a place where he had finally made his peace through a monster season. Rodriguez certainly played 2007 like he wanted to be here and made it sound like it, too, until refusing to even listen to the Yankees' offer put him back in an old place, hooked up to a polygraph again.

His contract, not the truth, was setting him free to sign for the last dollar he would be offered wherever.

Turns out, he wasn't full of it, or of himself. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth was that he had been telling it all along. Rodriguez, barely booed through another bad postseason, had made it here, finally. And for $275-300 million over ten years, there was no reason to go try to make it anywhere else.

Rodriguez didn't wait for what Scott Boras insisted would be George Steinbrenner's inevitable offer; didn't want to run the risk of the Yankees filling third base with somebody else; didn't want to do anything but remain in a place that had been too hard to grow to love to give it up for a few more millions.

So he reached back out to the Steinbrenners, really freed himself to pursue the only thing left in baseball that should be important to him anymore.

"This is my third MVP," he said yesterday, after winning what he called his proudest one. "And I would trade all three for one world championship. There's definitely a huge hole in my resume."

And this is still the place that has the best combination of resources, and, thanks to Brian Cashman's injection of sanity, plan, to help A-Rod seal the deal, even if there are reasons to make the world-champion Red Sox the 2008 AL East favorites. One reason not to remains Rodriguez coming off 54 home runs, 156 RBIs, and 143 runs - one of five players in the last 75 years to lead the majors in all three categories - psyched-up and almost signed-on in his age 32 prime.

If, in a potential walk year, A-Rod could produce like that in a place that produced mostly distrust, 10 more years for a player who appears to have totally bought into this uniform and stage is a good investment. As it did for Barry Bonds, Rodriguez's big October inevitably will come.

"New York has been a place of growth for me," he said. "I've learned a lot. After the 500th homer, I felt I was in Little League with a hamburger and french fries in front of me. It's magical to go on that field in front of 55,000 people and the potential (of it continuing) is exciting.

"I banged my head against New York, it didn't bang me. It made me look in the mirror and realize I have flaws. My relationship with my teammates has been my biggest improvement, just being one of the guys. Anything that has happened to me in New York made me a better person and player."

Congratulate yourself, New York, for providing the test that will make the next $275 million invested in the virtual remainder of Alex Rodriguez's career a sound business decision. You gave A-Rod a window into his own soul, enabled him to prove that the once most insincere guy in the locker room had meant everything he had come to say about New York growing on him.

Our town's test was his test. Whether there eventually would have been a better offer out there or not, in the end, Rodriguez wasn't interested in being anything but a Yankee.


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