Saturday, March 29, 2008


Kevin Kernan
New York Post

Alex Rodriguez warms up before a Grapefruit League spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., Wednesday, March 26, 2008.
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

March 27, 2008 -- CLEARWATER, Fla. - This is how concerned Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez is with Jose Canseco's April Fool's joke of a book that will be released April 1.

During batting practice yesterday Rodriguez put on a show, driving one ball far over the Frenchy's pavilion in left field, drawing gasps from the crowd at Bright House Networks Field and leaving his teammates in awe.

Rodriguez was determined to put on a show, and he made his point: A-Rod could care less about Canseco's comments that the steroid slugger said he introduced Rodriguez to a steroid dealer named "Max" and that A-Rod, who was a bachelor at the time, coveted Canseco's wife, according to Canseco.

Jose and Jessica, the former Hooters girl, were divorced in 2000. Alex never did marry her.

It was obvious after the YankeesNew York Yankees ' 4-0 loss to the Phillies that A-Rod isn't about to lose any sleep over Canseco's words. He never mentioned Canseco's name during his meeting with reporters. When asked if all this could be a distraction, he said, "It's over as far as I'm concerned.

"The bell's about to ring and it's getting really exciting," A-Rod noted. "I can't wait for Opening Day March 31 in The Bronx."

He said he had no statements, no comments on the Canseco matter. Why should he? Why should Alex Rodriguez try to sell Canseco's book for him? Why should Rodriguez bother talking about Canseco, who basically has been promising to take down A-Rod with his "inside" information.

Rodriguez doesn't have to worry about Canseco, just opposing pitchers. He's been crushing the ball all spring but was 0-3 yesterday, his average plummeting to .432.

Rodriguez admitted the BP display was "pretty impressive," then noted when the game came, "I went in the hole like a fox."

Or it could be because spring training is about to wrap up and all the hitters are anxious to get out of here and get on with the real show Monday against the Blue Jays, the last Opening Day at the House That Ruth Built.

It's A-Rod's house now. Rodriguez said earlier this spring that he feels the fans have come around to him like never before, and yesterday when he was announc-ed there were cheers from the fans. A lot of Philly fans no less. It seems like they didn't put a lot of stock into Canseco's comments as well.

Why should they? If Jose really had something, he would have sunk A-Rod in his first book. The fans want to see A-Rod hit like he did in batting practice and like he has all spring. Everyone seems to forget that. The fans want to be entertained.

Yankees fans will be interested in these comments from hitting coach Kevin Long, who has built a special bond with Rodriguez the last two years.

"The swing looks short, it looks compact, it looks explosive," Long said. "There's no forward movement still. It's just staying behind the ball, getting the foot down, getting in a good position. Everything looks great."

Long than smiled and added, "It doesn't look normal, it looks great, it looks fantastic."

It looks like an MVP swing. You can expect Rodriguez to win his second straight and fourth career MVP award in 2008. That's how good he looks. That's how good the Yankees offense looks.

Asked to name the best player he's ever seen, Joe Girardi mentioned three: Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Rodriguez. Interestingly, he mentioned the Pittsburgh Pirate Barry Bonds, who could beat you in so many ways, not the Balco Bonds.

"It's over time, not just having one or two great years," Girardi said.

"[Rodriguez] is always going to command a lot of attention," the manager added. "Michael Jordan was the same way."

That's pretty interesting company. That's what the Yankees have in Alex Rodriguez. He's always going to be the center of attention.

A-Rod is not the only one who can't wait for Opening Day.

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