Did Mr. October's magic finally rub off on Alex Rodriguez?
Reggie Jackson is summoned annually to loosen up A-Rod
Jackson and Yankees fans didn't take much pleasure in the sight of Carl Pavano
The Twins organization is truly a model of consistency and more notes
NEW YORK -- Mr. October sauntered over to talk to Alex Rodriguez before Game 1 of the Division Series here in hopes that a little postseason magic might rub off on the $30 million man. This is a scene that's repeated every year at this time.
Reggie Jackson, the Yankees postseason hero turned Yankee troubleshooter, is summoned annually to loosen up A-Rod, who can be tighter than a five-percent tipper at this time. And when Reggie was done loosening up his better-paid protégé Wednesday afternoon, Reggie made his usual October prediction.
"A-Rod's going to have a good series," Reggie declared.
Truth be told, that is exactly what he says every year.
"I didn't know in the past what he was going to do. I was just hoping he'd catch lightning in a bottle those other times," Reggie said.
That's what he says every year, too.
"He just looks good now," Reggie continued, undaunted. "He's ready to go."
Lets' just say Jackson's batting average as a player was higher than his batting average when it comes to Rodriguez. But this time, Rodriguez does appear looser. He hasn't been the center of attention all season, and he has seemed noticeably happier to those around him.
Rodriguez deflects questions that are about him to talk about the team, a la Jeter. He has been somewhat scarcer in a clubhouse full of hiding spots, and when he comes out to talk, he talks about the team now. That's what he did Wednesday night, after breaking a long hitless streak in key playoff spots with two run-producing hits and helping the Yankees to a 7-2 Game 1 victory over the Twins. Eventually, A-Rod did allow, "It definitely felt good to contribute."
"He has come with a different mentality," Mariano Rivera said of Rodriguez. "He has been tremendous this year. He's been great. Wonderful."
"He seems relaxed. He seems focused out there," Jorge Posada said.
"He seems very comfortable since he's been back," Derek Jeter said.
When the game started, at first it was the same old October A-Rod. He flied to right in the first, stranding Jeter at second base and thus making it 0 for 19 in his last 19 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position. Then he whiffed in the third inning with Mark Teixeira on first base, making it 0 for 29 in his last 29 postseason at-bats with runners on base.
The strikeout was especially bad. Twins starter Brian Duensing, a Nebraskan who'd been a teammate of Yankee Joba Chamberlain at the University of Nebraska but had never before even been to New York City, used a tantalizing changeup to whiff baseball's best-paid player. A-Rod was way out in front. Once again, he looked anxious. Jackson's loosening skills didn't appear to be helping.
But in the fifth inning, Duensing tried to slip a low fastball past Rodriguez, and he lined a run-scoring hit to left field. The 0-for-19 and 0-for-29 streaks were broken.
And then in the seventh inning, Rodriguez stroked a Jon Rauch offering over right fielder Jason Kubel's head for a run-scoring single. That made it 2 for 21 with runners in scoring position and 2 for 31 with runners in scoring position. He is downright hot.
Jackson no fan of Pavano
Jackson was in a very good mood. That is until he saw Twins pitcher Carl Pavano, who's hated in these parts after taking $39.95 million to be a Yankee, winning nine games, getting into an unreported car accident and spending four years generally luxuriating, skirt chasing and recuperating.
"Why would he wear my number?" Jackson said, observing Pavano across the field. "That's not good."
Pavano, who did wear Jackson's No. 44 in Cleveland, actually wears No. 48 for the Twins.
The crowd presumably didn't take offense at that number but booed him lustily in pre-series introductions. (If any number bothers the fans, it's got to be that $39.95 million figure.)
Pavano has managed to win more games this year than in his four years in New York. And he will start Game 3 of this series, although the Twins still haven't quite officially announced it. Maybe they think mere mention of his name will rile up the Yankees.
MLB Truth & Rumors