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Rodriguez, according to Roberts, is deep down still the abandoned little boy who was scarred by his father, Victor, who left the family when Alex was 10. "He had always been a sensitive boy; Victor's departure made him even more fragile emotionally. Neighbors recall seeing Alex's eyes brim with tears at the slightest criticism.” His father's absence became part of his identity, and his baseball success filled the void that had been created. But his self-esteem remains so fragile that he's afraid of failing, and he's so painfully self-aware that he's gripped by a performance anxiety that makes high-pressure moments nearly impossible. Which is why he usually fails in them. Yankee players tell Roberts he's "the vainest hitter they've ever known.”
Torre takes that sentiment deeper in his book. "When it comes to a key situation, he can't get himself to concern himself with getting the job done, instead of how it looks,” he says. "Allow yourself to be embarrassed. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. And sometimes players aren't willing to do that. They have a reputation to uphold.” But through five years as a Yankee, Rodriguez is fashioning a reputation as someone who hits mammoth home runs in the early innings and dribblers to the shortstop with the game on the line.
That's a trifle. What's not a trifle is the endorsement of Selena Roberts' efforts at exploring the inner world of Alex Rodriguez. My personal opinion is that Roberts simply is not qualified to psychoanalyze Rodriguez. Not unless she's prepared to explain away all the little boys who have been abandoned and scarred and still somehow managed to excel in their chosen professions, and occasionally even succeed in high-pressure moments.
But while we're on that subject, Rodriguez' career batting line is .304/.389/.576.
Not for nothing, when games are close and late, he's batting .278/.378/.539 (and in those spots he's often faced tough relief pitchers). I just don't see anything there, or at least not anything that would justify consulting Freud's notebooks.
Ah, but of course there is October. In postseason games, Rodriguez has indeed struggled, relative to his regular-season performance: .279/.361/.483.
You might argue that 167 plate appearances isn't enough to prove -- or even suggest -- anything. I don't think I would argue much with you. But let's assume that those numbers mean something. Should we now scurry to expert witnesses to explain why Willie Mays hit just one home run in 99 postseason plate appearances? Have you seen Joe DiMaggio's postseason numbers? They're significantly worse than A-Rod's and DiMaggio finished with 220 World Series plate appearances. Has anyone resorted to pop psychology to explain DiMaggio's October struggles?
Maybe someone should. But it seems to me that the rules are different for Rodriguez. It might be natural, given the current state of sports coverage, but it sure isn't fair.