A-Rod finished the postseason with a .365/.500/.808 line. Apparently, this had nothing to do with his being a wonderful ballplayer and everything to do with personal transformation, moral courage and self-actualization. Meet your 2009 playoffs MVP: Freakin' Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
No other player has been so afflicted with the terrible pop psychology of sportswriters as Alex Rodriguez, and even now that he's just won the championship that he was supposedly too selfish and inner-directed to win, Rodriguez is being subjected to yet more inane psychologizing. Here's Ronald Blum of the Associated Press:
But this was a new A-Rod, liberated and transformed in his 16th big league season. Finally starting to grow up at age 34, he shed the distractions caused by his $275 million contract and an entourage of handlers he picked up from Madonna. He glowed in his relationship with new girlfriend Kate Hudson.
If the legacies of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada were crystallized by their fifth world title, then in winning his first, Rodriguez's was transformed. He may still be slightly vain — a centaur? Really? — and may still be highly ambitious, but he has undoubtedly acquired a new level of humility that, in fairness, may have been hard to come by as he was performing like the best player in the world (winning three MVP awards in five seasons) and being paid like it (signing not one but two contracts in excess of a quarter-billion dollars just seven years apart).
That transformation began with his much-dissected press conference, but the real impetus for change came a few weeks later when he went to lunch with some friends of his and heard them "tell me a lot of things that I needed to hear," he says. "I listened and I humbled myself. I look in the mirror and I was honest with myself and I didn't like what I saw."
This all makes for a pleasant story arc — ooh! he's having another moment in front of a mirror — but it's nonsense, and one day, Rodriguez will have a good chuckle over it while polishing his World Series ring. Does anyone really believe he went .365/.500/.808 because he located some new wellspring of humility? Or because he shed those infamous "distractions," stopped counting his money and fetched up with a more PG-13 celebrity? He hit .365/.500/.808 because he's one of the greatest hitters of his generation, Kate Hudson or no.
Consider: As a regular, A-Rod has now figured in 11 playoff series; by my reckoning, he played poorly in only three of them. In the others, he was good, if not brilliant: .409/.480/.773 for Seattle in the 2000 ALCS against the Yankees; .421/.476/.737 with the Yankees in the 2004 ALDS against the Twins. He very nearly went 0-for-Detroit in 2006, but otherwise, even discounting his supposed Great Awakening this season, Rodriguez has enjoyed the sort of postseason success that the Mike Lupicas of the world are usually so quick to label "clutch." That they never did was probably out of fealty to the public image of a wealthy, sybaritic loser that they had so laboriously constructed for A-Rod. But he was great before, and he was great again, and the only transformation that took place was in the imaginations of those sportswriters who never tire of assigning moral value to things that happen in a baseball game.
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Thanks for your continued support of Deadspin. Barry's back tonight, and I'm sure he'll have some pleasant and totally sufferable thoughts to share about the World Series.