I may be one person who has walked in his shoes. Of course, it was Philadelphia, not New York. It was $2 million, not $30 million. And the world in which he lives is drastically different than mine. Make no mistake, few would qualify to be both highest paid in the game and 0 for 20 in a postseason.
I know what it’s like to be right on the ball and miss it, and the few times you connect it’s caught. Imagine in the ALCS opener against Detroit, bases loaded, if Alex’s rope in the hole in the second inning was 6 inches to the left. He’d drive in two runs, the pressure is off and maybe none of this happens.
Instead, Jhonny Peralta dives and catches it for the third out, another failure in the clutch. In the 1983 World Series, I finished 1 for 20. But in my first two at-bats, I lined out to center field with men on base. Those balls find the gap and I’d go as far to say the Series outcome against Baltimore would have been different.
The postseason can be cruel, especially cruel to those hitters who are expected to produce and lead their teams. In baseball, players are supposed to be judged over an extended period, not a two-week postseason. Hitting comes and goes and never says goodbye. This time of year, the big, high-paid boys are supposed to hit, but most don’t. Check it, there are more hitting stars who fail in postseason than succeed. Look at Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson _ even worse than Alex, but who’s making the headlines?
Imagine if he had never signed that contract, made a normal amount and never had a brush with performance-enhancing drugs. Imagine if there were no Internet, no Twitter or Facebook, only a couple newspapers and radio shows, and limited television exposure. Would he be today’s Mickey Mantle?
But that’s the reality, and because of it he has his $200 million and the pressure that comes with it. He signed on for this and now he faces challenges few if any ever have. I was never benched, never removed for a pinch hitter. The Phillies believed I was always one swing from changing a game and a series. Apparently, Joe Girardi didn’t feel the same about Alex Rodriguez.
Alex seems to my eye to still be a fundamentally sound and potentially very productive hitter. Staying healthy at 37 is the issue. Age is a funny thing. I seemed to hit a wall in my late 30s. I can’t explain it other than to say fastballs I used to hit a long way ended up on the warning track, nagging injuries increased, I didn’t get to groundballs I used to eat up.
And as this happened, I began to doubt my ability. I had an excuse: I was old, so I retired. It happens to all of us. But in Alex’s case when it does _ if it isn’t happening now _ it won’t be that easy. He will be making $30 million a year, guaranteed! For that kind of money, you aren’t allowed to get old.
Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt and Alex Rodriguez have both won three MVP awards and a World Series title. Schmidt hit 548 home runs and was a 12-time All-Star; Rodriguez has 647 homers and is a 14-time All-Star.