What caused Alex Rodriguez to turn it around? Theories abound
Mark Teixeira is A-Rod's new best friend on the team
A-Rod reduced his publicity around the same time he started dating Hudson
Vaunted hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo is thought to be leaning toward the Cubs
NEW YORK -- Alex Rodriguez has made a lot of changes in his life, and they seem to be working so far. It's tough to judge the new A-Rod except on his playing exploits, as he's made himself a lot scarcer in the new Yankee Stadium (he was nowhere to be seen on workout day Thursday). But folks around him have observed a lot of alterations and see the difference in A-Rod.
There is a lot of hope around the Yankees that A-Rod's changes carry him to a big postseason after a several poor ones in New York, and after he crushed the Twins in the type of monster playoff series they've been waiting for since he got here 5 1/2 years ago, there's talk among Yankees people that he may carry them to a title. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman won't go that far but did say, "Right now he's in a good place ... It seems like he's making better decisions."
Everyone around A-Rod agrees that's the case. But how did he get there? Here are some of the theories for the new and improved A-Rod.
1. Mark Teixeira: Mark Teixeira is A-Rod's new best friend on the team, and Rodriguez is probably closer to Teixeira than anyone in the locker since batting practice pitcher Mike Borzello went with his godfather Joe Torre to join his Dodgers.
"We just really hit it off this year," Teixeira said. "Alex and I have hung out this year. We've gotten together, our families have gotten together -- couple dinners, couple lunches -- just talking about the game, but also talking about life after baseball, what his plans are. We have a lot of similar ideas about business, and we love our kids and want to win a championship."
They played together in Texas for a year when Teixeira was a rookie, and the rumor was that they didn't get along, but Teixeira has scoffed at those whispers from the start.
Folks close to both say Teixeira say he's actually provided a blueprint for a "workmanlike" superstar. Teixeira said, "We have a very similar work ethic and take our craft very seriously."
2. A-Rod's real estate agent: He sold his Park Avenue apartment as part of his divorce and moved to the west side of Manhattan. But word is, he is spending more time at an abode up in leafy Westchester County. It has to be a more sedate setting for a celebrity, and it can't hurt that it's closer to Teixeira, who resides nearby in stately Greenwich, Conn.
3. Dr. Marc Philippon: It isn't certain whether the noted hip surgeon, the rehab specialist or anyone in Colorado said anything, but the surgery itself has had an effect.
"The hip surgery has him focused on staying healthy and keeping it simple," Cashman said. "His energy is all going in the right direction. He clearly made the decision to concentrate on baseball."
Rodriguez does like big stars, and in the world of surgery Philippon is right up there, so it's no surprise the pair connected. Plus, the surgery worked so well that Philippon said it's likely he won't need the second surgery this winter.
4. Kate Hudson: Only A-Rod can begin dating an A-list Hollywood starlet at a time he's toning things down. But this appears to be the case.
By the accounts of people around the team, she's a nice person -- according to a New York Post story, she's so nice even the tight Yankee wives' clique lets her in their club -- who isn't exactly a baseball expert. Anyway, somehow Rodriguez reduced his publicity around the same time he started dating Hudson.
The last bit of bad pub was a Details photo spread that included him staring into a mirror, and it was done before he showed up in spring training. This pleases his bosses.
"We signed a baseball player, not one of the top 100 celebrities in the world," Cashman said. "He has always lived life to the fullest. And he's become such a public figure, which creates a lot more drama. Sometimes that drama plays out more strongly in public life than it I think it is."
Even is that's true, Cashman did notice a reduction in publicity opportunities and extra "drama." And oddly enough, it came out a time when an actress entered his life.
5. Guy Oseary: After using old pal Madonna's agent for a few mistake-filled years, Rodriguez recently dumped this fellow whose strategies apparently work better with the Hollywood set. Word is, Oseary did things like obsess over what A-Rod would wear for his steroid sitdown with Peter Gammons.
6. Brian Cashman: Following perhaps Rodriguez's strangest misstep, which was to visit with his cousin after outing him as the steroid supplier this spring, Cashman had a few stern words for Rodriguez on the subject of discretion. And in that vein, Cashman declined to discuss what was said when asked about it recently.
7. Al himself: As Cashman noted, "he's an adult" who's responsible for his own decisions (though he's clearly been influenced by a lot of different folks along the way). But the biggest decisions ultimately come down to him. "His business is baseball," Cashman said, "and he's sticking to it."
Angels make offer to Abreu; staying in character, he'll wait
The first hint of what the winter might be like came via the Angels, and for Bobby Abreu it is eerily reminiscent of the winter of 2008-09. The Angels offered Abreu $16 million over two years, it was learned.
Abreu might wonder whether he's in a time warp, as that is the very same figure the Rays offered him midway through last winter before they gave that deal to Pat Burrell instead. The $16 million bid represents a raise over his current bargain $5 million salary. But Abreu was by many accounts (including manager Mike Scioscia's) the Angels' MVP. He was making $16 million a year as a Yankee before they rejected an option for that amount for 2009 and spent their money elsewhere.
While the Yankees were investing $423.5 million in Teixeira, CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, teams weren't exactly rushing to Abreu, who's as consistent a personality and player as they come. The market mysteriously dried up for Abreu last winter, and he wound up taking a $5 million, one-year deal with the Angels over a few similar bids. The one big advantage to the one-year deal is that it put him right back on the market.
Of course, he doesn't want to repeat the winter of a year ago.
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