After this series of events, Rodriguez glad to go
It could not have occurred to Alex Rodriguez as he was dining on Newbury Street the other night on the eve of his first Yankees-Red Sox series that the half-dozen Sox fans lifting a finger in salutation as they passed by were doing more than offering him an obscene welcome to the rivalry.
Rude? Without a doubt. But it turns out they were merely informing Rodriguez in advance of how many hits he would have in the series, as well as how many game-turning errors he would make on Patriots Day, when the Nomarless, Nixonless Sox made it three out of four over the Bronx Mint with a 5-4, come-from-behind win.
Denied the opportunity to embrace Rodriguez as one of their own, Sox fans were not about to waste the chance to revel in A-Rod's misery. Bad enough that he was in danger of going 0-for-Yawkey Way until he singled with two outs in the ninth off Keith Foulke, ending an 0-for-16 string. Rodriguez also threw David Ortiz's broken-bat squibber into center field while attempting a double play in the seventh inning, as Pokey Reese scored the tying run.
"I'm sure they enjoyed it," Rodriguez said of his lost weekend. "I don't know, you've got to ask them all, millions of 'em. I've got enough things on my mind right now than to worry what Boston fans are thinking about."
Fifty at-bats into his pinstriped incarnation. Rodriguez is batting .160. The $252 Million Man has three RBIs, two fewer than Bubba Crosby, the Yankee backup working for the big league minimum. You'd need a limo to give a ride to all the Sox pitchers who got Rodriguez out this weekend: Tim Wakefield, Scott Williamson, Curt Schilling, Mike Timlin, Mark Malaska, Phil Seibel, Frank Castillo, and Bronson Arroyo, who struck out A-Rod twice yesterday, the second time on three pitches.
Rodriguez whiffed a half-dozen times in the series, rolled into a double play, and got only four balls out of the infield in four games. The only way his weekend could have gone any worse is if Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who stayed away, had ordered him to run the Marathon as penance.
"It was very frustrating, an awful series for me personally," said Rodriguez, who faced a battalion-size group of interrogators after the game and never flinched. "But it's over, and we move on to Chicago."
Rodriguez was hardly alone among Yankees who had a forgettable visit. New York's vaunted starting rotation did not produce a single good outing, including yesterday's starter, Kevin Brown, who couldn't hold a 4-1 lead. A-Rod's pal, Derek Jeter, made errors in successive games. An inning after A-Rod's error, Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui lost David McCarty's pop fly in the sun. By the time he sighted it, the wind blew it out of his reach, McCarty reaching second on a gift double, then scoring the winning run on Gabe Kapler's two-out hit off Tom Gordon, the former Sox closer.
Matsui was unsparing in his self-critique. "Maybe if there was good outfielder there," he said, "he would have caught it."
Rodriguez deserved a better fate on his error. While Ortiz's bat exploded on impact, shards flying everywhere, Rodriguez fielded the ball about halfway down the third base line, then turned to throw to second. He hesitated, however, when Wilson was late to the bag, and with the timing of the play now shot, air-mailed the ball into the outfield.
"When the bat shattered, I just saw the bat when it came off his hands," Wilson said. "I never saw the ball. After [Rodriguez] got it, I started running toward second base."
Rodriguez, who would have had an easy play at first, made no apology for attempting to turn two.
"I'm always going to be aggressive," he said. "I'm always going to go for the gusto. I thought we had a double play there, just because Ortiz was falling back. I picked up the flare of the bat going this way, I saw Ortiz falling back, I thought here's our chance to get two."
Given a do-over, Rodriguez said he would do the same thing "10 out of 10 times."
But no one on the Sox side was offering him a mulligan.
"It's disappointing, because obviously you want to get off to a good start and you do want to impress," Rodriguez said, "but at the end of the day you've got to believe your track record, and I do. I'm going to be fine. It'll be that much more rewarding when I turn it around personally."
Rodriguez never had gone 0 for 4 in four straight games, which is where he stood until lining his hit off Foulke in the ninth.
"Is that what it was, 0 for 16?" he said. "It felt like 0 for 50. Well, you can only get slapped so many times."
Rodriguez won't have to wait long for his next shot at the Sox. They visit the Bronx for three more games, starting Friday night. By then, he may bear more than a passing resemblance to the best player in baseball.
"Everyone struggles," Jeter said. "Every single person goes through 50 at-bats where you struggle. If you didn't, you'd hit .500 for the year. Everything pretty much evens out over the course of 162 games."
That's the message, Yankees manager Joe Torre said, that he will continue to convey to Rodriguez.
"It's something we're going through right now," he said. "With our ability and energy, it will stop, certainly. We have to take our lickings and make sure we don't feel sorry for ourselves."
© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.