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Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Updated: November 6, 9:45 AM ET
A-Rod finally wins that elusive title

By Jim Caple
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Cheer up, Yankees haters. There is one good thing about New York's winning the World Series. We no longer have to listen to all that nonsense about how Alex Rodriguez is a choker and a loser.

As if A-Rod were single-handedly responsible for the Yankees' epic collapse in 2004 (didn't Mariano Rivera blow two saves in that series?). As if simply playing for the losing team in the postseason were a moral failing. As if a three-time MVP and one of the greatest players in baseball history were somehow fundamentally incapable of performing under pressure.

Alex Rodriguez
In his sixth season with the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez can now call himself a world champion.

After this postseason, you won't hear any of that again (or, given some fans, not unless he goes hitless in a division series game next October). A-Rod walked twice, singled and scored two runs in Game 6 of the World Series, leaving him with a postseason batting average of .365, a .500 on-base percentage, a 1.308 OPS, 15 runs, six home runs, 18 RBIs and, most importantly, a world championship.

Who knows -- maybe New York fans now will even consider A-Rod a "true" Yankee like Shane Spencer, Ruben Rivera and Ricky Ledee.

"It feels even better than you can imagine," a jubilant and champagne-soaked Rodriguez said in the Yankees' clubhouse. "Obviously, in 2004 we were so close and we waited a long time, but it feels good."

"I think he's exorcised a lot of demons," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "There's no reason to take any, 'He can't do this, He can't do that.' He's done it all now. And now he can just continue to write history because he's one of the greatest players that's ever played this game."

The major failing with the book on A-Rod that was released last winter is it was written before the most interesting season of his life by far. The book therefore missed out on his nationally televised admission of steroid use, his hip surgery, his home run on the first swing he took this season, his relationship with Kate Hudson, the complete overhaul of his postseason image, the gossip about the painting of him depicted as a centaur, and, of course, the world championship.

In other words, his was a little more interesting year than say, Yuniesky Betancourt's.

"Look, a lot of other people were going the other way," Rodriguez said of that day back in February when he faced the cameras at spring training, "and my teammates and coaches and the organization stood right next to me and we finished together as world champs. I couldn't be prouder.

"I just knew then that when I had the 25 guys standing next to me and the organization and general manager, it meant the world to me -- and I said that day [that] this is going to turn out to be one of the most special years of our lives, and it sure has."

Indeed. A season that began in February with Rodriguez talking about his steroid use while his teammates stood awkwardly to the side ended in November with him in the thick of their World Series celebration.

Considering all the stuff that has happened to him this year, the amazing thing is he didn't accidentally tear an ACL during the celebration. As it was, he had to bend over to catch his breath several times.

"I enjoy watching Alex be happy and relieved. And he's more happy than he is relieved," Reggie Jackson said. "He's just happy he's experienced a championship and enjoyed being around his teammates. I don't know if I'm getting old or what, but I enjoy watching the young guys be happy.

"I'm happy for the guy. Alex has been a different guy all year. He's been comfortable. He's happy and he gets to enjoy what he does best and was made to do: play baseball. He just got comfortable with himself."

After the game, Rodriguez lifted the World Series trophy high atop the stage set up near second base and shouted with joy into the cool November night. Then he made his way to the clubhouse, parting a sea of reporters and officials, still holding the trophy tight. Asked how the trophy felt, he could only say, "Heavy. Heavy."

Funny. The way he raised it up and carried it around, you would have sworn it were as light as a feather.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.