Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mates happiness sign of ARod's turnaround

It's a sign of just how far Alex Rodriguez has come in his New York Yankees career that his teammates showed such genuine happiness for him when he finally hit that elusive 600th home run yesterday.

Flash back to ARod's early years in the Bronx. In his book the Yankee Years, Joe Torre recounts how a small group of players complained that ARod did not fit the team concept of the Yankees and they were sick of the special treatment he was getting as the Yankees tried to make him as comfortable as possible. Torre quotes Jason Giambi, a pretty well-liked guy, as saying that the Yankees needed to stop coddling ARod (page 258).

Flash back to the present. Derek Jeter, after being asked about ARod's milestone, jokingly accuses his teammate of lying about his age and teases him about having another 15 years on his contract. It's an intriguing example of how much things have changed for ARod in the clubhouse. The Torre book describes Jeter and ARod as being engaged in a cold truce that started from the time ARod first put on the pinstripes through the end of the Torre era. Going from that kind of awkward co-existence to genuine happiness for ARod was a major transition for Jeter and a sign of how ARod finally won his teammates over.

A large part was the change in the makeup of the clubhouse. One of the happiest guys for ARod was Nick Swisher (one of the happiest guys, period!). But players like Swisher, CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Mark Teixeira completely changed the chemistry of the clubhouse for the better, making it easier for ARod to start fresh with guys he didn't have that negative history with. It created an environment where ARod could thrive and he has taken full advantage of that, finally winning his elusive World Series ring last year.

It is fascinating to see a player go from being one of the most hated guys in his clubhouse to one whose teammates embrace and celebrate his milestones. Their happiness for him was real, even if the milestone wasn’t.

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