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It was October 19, 2004, I was watching the eighth inning of game six of the ALCS with my wife and son and we were all about to die.
OK, not literally, but I was sure the Sox were going to lose, and when they did thoughts of a double murder suicide would dance in my head, because that would be better than another year of Yankee fans, and the rest of the world, reminding me of 1918, and another Boston choke.
(Ray Romano used to say at the beginning of “Everybody Loves Raymond” “don’t worry it’s not about the kids,” and you shouldn’t worry either, this isn’t about the Sox. The internet needs another Sox obsessed blog like Rudy Giuliani needs another cousin to marry.)
Bronson Arroyo was pitching, and to paraphrase Winston Churchill, never had the hearts of so many been placed in the hands of someone so dumb. Miguel Cairo had doubled and Derek Jeter had singled to make it 4-2 with one out. I knew the Yanks were coming with the certainty I knew the shark in “Jaws” would surface or that Leatherface was hiding behind the door.
Alex Rodriguez stepped to the plate, the guy we should have had, the guy the Yankees stole from us. “He’s hitting it out,” I said. My son, so naïve, said no, the Sox would win. “1967, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1978, 1986.” I began to list the times I too had thought they would win only to be crushed. Then A-Rod hit the ball to Arroyo, he had no chance at Jeter, and so he moved towards first base and stuck his glove in A-Rod’s path.
Then there was a collision, the ball went flying, Jeter scored, A-Rod went to second, the tying run, still one out, and I yelled “There it is, there it is!” like when you see Leatherface behind the door and you’re yelling at the screen, but you can’t stop him or the oncoming carnage.
Obviously A-Rod had a right to the base path, and when he ran into the glove he forced the ball loose, a good play, a play a Yankee would make.
Because as much as I hated them, as much as I still hate them, the Yankees are the franchise by which all others in every sport are measured.
There are players who earn being Yankees by the way they play, the way they carry themselves: Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettite, Bernie Williams, and past players, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Micky Mantle, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey. Yankees. Joe Pepitone? No. Horace Clark? Please. Alfonso Soriano? Wanna-be.
And at that moment Alex Rodriguez. And then they showed the replay. Showed A-Rod taking the ball from Arroyo like Jerry Seinfeld stealing a marble rye from an old woman on the street. He didn’t thrust all his weight into the glove with the force to snap Arroyo’s wrist, he daintily reached up, and slapped it.
Before there was even a ruling on the field I was up, pointing at the TV, forgetting about the score, forgetting everything except one thing. “That man is not a Yankee!” I said just as A-Rod was called out and he spread his hands and whined like a second grader caught cutting the milk line.
Not only was he out, but also Jeter, who had been at second, was put back on first, out of scoring position. A-Rod’s bitchy-bitch slap had done more damage to his team then if he had fallen at Arroyo’s feet and surrendered. With Jeter stuck on first Arroyo escaped the inning.
It was then I realized, while I still had complete faith that the Sox could blow it, the Yankees weren’t surfacing like the shark in “Jaws,” or inevitably striking like Leatherface, they were harmless, because at their center there wasn’t a Yankee, there was an A-Rod.
I don’t want to contradict Buster Olney, but Luis Gonzalez’s bloop hit did not put an end to the Yankees dynasty, A-Rod’s bitch slap did.
Over the next two seasons he did little to change my opinion, in fact, with each passing day, others recognized it.
This spring his highness announced that he may exercise his option to play elsewhere next year, as if he was too good to wear the uniform of Mantle, Ruth and Dimaggio. I didn’t want him on the final day of the season to strip off the uniform and leave it in a heap for the clubhouse boy. I wanted it stripped off of him like Patton ripping the stripes off a Sergeant who wept in his tank.
Then there was the wonderful spring of A-Rod when everyone talked about him hitting 80 homeruns and knocking in 200. Maybe, some said, he was earning his pinstripes. Not to me. I just waited on it the way, pre A-Rod, I would wait for the Yankees to squash the Sox. Mr. April turned the calendar to May and the Yankees began to slip, and they looked for a man to rise. A-Rod slumped.
On May 22, with the Sox up 7-2, in the eighth, with the bases loaded, and A-Rod on first, Posada hit an infield grounder. Dustin Pedroia covered second, and from the third base side relayed the throw to first as A-Rod slid, then came up, elbowing him in the stomach to interfere with the throw. Legal, but unnecessary. The Sox weren’t getting Posada at first, the run was going to score, but A-Rod risked an umpire calling Posada out for his interference, which would have ended the inning. A Yankee takes a guy out at second to break up a double play. A Yankee doesn’t needlessly interfere with a throw that could cost his team a run.
Then, on May 30th, as A-Rod was going from second the third on an inning ending pop up against a Toronto team the Yanks were well ahead of, the anti-Yankee, passing behind third baseman Howie Clark, yelled “got it” to call Clark off the ball, who let it fall in harmlessly. Again, not illegal. If it had been done by some AAA player hoping to hang on with the big club by stealing them a hit it might even be acceptable. But All-Stars don’t do it. How would you feel, if you wore the pinstripes, being the next batter, and digging in at the plate, wondering if you were going to have to pay for A-Rod’s playground antics?
Since the Arroyo vs. A-Rod incident the Yankees haven’t been the Yankees. And they won’t be the Yankees until that uniform is off of him. I think A-Rod should go down to Tampa. I think he is definitely a Devil-Ray.
In A-Rod’s defense his slipping into the hotel after a game with a mysterious blonde who is not his wife, now that’s a Yankee.