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Monday, July 27, 2009
Explaining the Yankees, 'pop'-style

It's always interesting when the storyline doesn't quite fit the reality. From a review in The New York Times of three Yankee-centric books that were released this spring: Doesn't this seem like a strange time to note the Yankees' dysfunctionality? Considering they're now sitting in first place and look like a fantastic bet to return to the playoffs this fall? But of course that's just an editing issue. I'm sure the review was written a few weeks ago when the Yankees were still in second place, and it was easy to suggest a systemic problem. Now, though? Not so much.

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.