alex. emmanuel. rodriguez.
the following entry may be too long, too emo, or too OMG STFU WTF BBQ YOU NARCISSISTIC DOUCHE to read for some...if so, die. i suppose i'm going to write a selfish offensive personal blog entry because it's therapeutic. preempting the tl;dr, imo.
so i suggest making yourself a nice warm drink, cozying up in the bed, and putting on some relaxing music.
here's arod on a boat:
he wears boatshoes. awesome.
i'll spare you his accomplishments, for they are well documented. suffice it to say that just 2/3 of his career complete, he is already among the greatest baseball players of all time. and yet it wasn't until now, his sixth season as a yankee, that he was completely accepted by all yankee fans. of course, that's not to say every fan was a new york post (i swear that newspaper makes me dumber every time i read it) reading, analytically flawed thinking, "what have you done for me lately remarking", and downright unappreciating fan, but there were enough that it irked me. ignorance irks me.
most people don't realize this, but alex had a postseason OPS (on base percentage + slugging, a somewhat standard measure of offensive production) pretty much at the same level as derek jeter. that's right, alex rodriguez performed at par with everyone's clutch hero derek, who was prematurely called "Mr. November" during a world series the yankees ultimately lost. in fact, most sportswriters quote arod's postseason stats post 2004 to try to create a more sensational effect when criticizing his ability to perform in october. as if postseason games in seattle or games where the yankees win but ultimately lose in an epic collapse in boston don't count towards a player's postseason resume. as if it's his fault that sometimes pitchers don't pitch to him and he takes a lot of walks but doesn't rack up RBIs.
but all that is past now. after having a pretty epic postseason performance, he actually now has a postseason OPS higher than his regular season OPS, (which is also over 100 OPS points above derek's) which just goes to show how a few games can quickly change a players statistics and how fickle playoff performances can actually be. that's not to say he didn't look a bit different at the plate this year than some of his other postseason performances, but i firmly believe it was maybe just a small tweak that made alex become a destructive force this year.
i was still somewhat of a non-sports fan in the summer of 2003 (read: nerd, yes yes, i'm still a nerd ok) and i remember the first conversation i ever had about alex. i asked my high school friends over a plate of cheese fries at outback,
"Hey, so who's the best player in baseball?"
they debated for a while, and finally came up with the answer, A-Rod.
A-Rod. Alex Rodriguez. He plays for the Rangers, has the biggest contract in baseball.
"How come the Yankees don't have him?"
Jeter's the shortstop, A-Rod is a shortstop, there's no way it'd work.
"Oh, well, okay."
thus the prospect of rooting for the best player in baseball and the best team in baseball weren't aligned, until Aaron Boone decided to not only gift the Yankees with a pennant victory walk-off home run against the Red Sox, but with a contract violating sports injury that allowed the Yankees to talk a deal with A-Rod, who then agreed to shift over to 3rd base in order to fit on the roster (because who was going to move the beloved Jeter from shortstop even though alex was defensively superior as well)?
back when i was but a young boy, i had many expectations that were laid upon me. my parents, while having a nice cookie cutter appearance on the outside, were the typical strict asian parents who laid down the law when it came to studying. although it wasn't like we had a tradition of a bloodline of family members who have graduated from harvard (an impossibility as a 2nd generation korean family), it was pretty much preordained that both my sister and i would attend that school, and that was the goal. we were almost chess pieces in a match they would play with other asian parents that would be in competition, especially since many of my parents' friends from church also went to the top college in korea that my dad went to.
and the goal seemed attainable. indeed, it seemed i did have some intelligence, and the course was sound. i picked up the necessary accolades and awards throughout the year, until the end of my schooling career, my "postseason", i had a few setbacks. a 1510 was not an acceptable SAT score (my parents made me retake it), a 99 on nysmma doesn't get a violinist into all state orchestra, and several non-5 scores on APs on my record were like bulging blemishes on a beauty queen.
of course it was my sister who had achieved all these records and who had achieved the goal, and i was the bumbling idiot who ended only 3rd in his own high school class (i maintain that i would've made an awesome valedictory/salutatory speech). i had not met the bar, and ended up making only the 7th choice college on my list of 9, while the "Jeters" in my grade were making it into every choice they wanted. i suppose that's what annoyed me the most; it would've been comforting if the people i thought were less talented were also rejected.
college was kind of the same deal, the first couple years were depressing because i wasn't doing so hot. my parents were constantly on my case for failing in the "clutch", making my freshman summer miserable. my junior summer in 2005, i failed to obtain an internship and had nothing to show for on my resume. it didn't help that my best friend at yale, who was also my parents' competition in kid showing-off sport, was gainfully employed.
that summer was a time where i needed clarity and was provided none.
at the end of 2004, all was wrong with the yankee universe. we had obtained perhaps the best player that ever lived that year, and instead of glory we experienced defeat beyond imagination. an epic collapse of immense proportions, losing to our rivals after being up three games to none in the american league championship series. not only that, they had broken an 86 year drought of championships, and broken the image of yankee dominance. the horrid town of boston had its moment of glory.
and who can forget the slap play? a simple slap of bronson arroyo's wrist had defined arod's entire postseason career until this season, a lapse in judgment that erased everything he had done that year. even his hits against the minnesota twins in the ALDS, and his production against boston in the first three games of the series.
we expected the great success from alex, but what we suffered was ultimate failure. the pundits were already remarking the "curse of A-Rod" and other such scapegoating tactics. never mind that our team was full of aging pitchers who couldn't throw a strike across the plate without it getting nailed to deep left center, never mind the failings of sheffield, matsui, and other yankees who whiffed when it counted, never mind that we were actually the worse team that year statistically and were slight underdogs to win the ALCS in the first place. we had FAILED because alex came up short.
for most of my years i have had conflicting visions of self-perception. a lot of that has been shaped by my parents, who i realized believed in me so much and yet harped on every single failing moment i had in my life. i go through phases of suffocating self-deprecation and overwhelming megalomaniacy.
i consider my WSOP experience 3 years ago a success in my life not because of the obvious achievements, but because of the way it opened my eyes to the futility in what the world views as important and being able to stray from that and carve my own destiny.
so was it any surprise that i would pull for a player who was deemed the best in the world but was hated by his own fans? mike mussina aptly describes alex's predicament coming to new york, quoting from another blog:
“Try to imagine this,” he said. “You’ve been told, with a good deal of justification, that you are the best baseball player of your era that, in fact, you might end up being the best baseball player of all time. Then you come to New York and you’re told this: ‘You might be the best player in the game today but you’re no Derek Jeter.’ No matter what he does he’s always going to be in Jete’s shadow. He can’t escape it. If he wins a World Series, Derek will have five. If he wins four, Derek will have eight. He’s like a little brother trying to be as old as his big brother. It isn’t going to happen.”
but it seemed that in the summer of 2005, alex was making a statement with his MVP season, hitting like a machine. he came out to bat to a new song that year, made by his friend jay-z, titled "Numb/Encore". this song is an awesome mashup; the lyrics of numb's coming into one's own outside of others' perceptions, combined with encore's affirmation of self-worth totally embodies who alex is.
i wrote a previous entry about my summer 2005 experience in my senior year of college. it's pretty interesting looking back at me looking back at how things were and what my perceptions of the world were at the time.
i remember watching yankee games in the basement of a house in the burbs that summer and playing "numb/encore" on my computer every time alex came up to bat during the summer. it'd annoy the hell out of some of my friends, others were amused at my obsession. somehow watching alex suffer through what he did made me realize that it doesn't matter sometimes what other people think, because the masses can be idiotic.
i wanted to believe that someday, vindication, redemption, JUSTICE, would be at hand for me and alex. and we've both now experienced it in a world series.