With Reggie as his mentor, A-Rod is writing his own October legacy
A-Rod had another big postseason hit to win World Series Game 4 on Sunday
Most believe that Joe Girardi will go back to Andy Pettitte in Game 6 (if necessary)
Cole Hamels' struggles create a problem for the Phillies in a potential Game 7
PHILADELPHIA -- Yankees home run heroes Alex Rodriguez and Reggie Jackson are always chatting behind the batting cage in these Octobers. Normally we can only imagine what they are telling each other in these frequent meetings where the two baseball greats are seen but not heard. But before Game 4 of the World Series on Sunday night, A-Rod said something that struck Jackson as so profound and so perfect that Jackson felt he had to share it.
"Big hits are what matter,'' Rodriguez told Reggie before Game 4.
Which was like music to Reggie's ears.
And that's not just because that sort of comment celebrates Jackson's career of big hits and big moments, but because it reveals something new about A-Rod. Until these recent weeks, Rodriguez looked destined to be remembered for the sheer volume of regular-season hits and home runs, not any October moments. Now, with the Yankees one victory from wrapping up their 27th World Series championship, Rodriguez is close to rewriting his legacy.
"We're stride for stride ... on the same page,'' Reggie said.
A-Rod declined to discuss what the two greats talked about ("that's a private conversation,'' he said) after he scorched the go-ahead, two-out, ninth-inning hit off Phillies closer Brad Lidge that one-hopped the wall in the Yankees' 7-4 victory, putting the Yankees up 3-1 in games. That double gave Rodriguez 15 RBIs in his magical October that includes three hits that tied the game or put the Yankees ahead in the ninth inning or later. Perhaps recalling what he told Reggie hours earlier, A-Rod said, "There's no question, I've never had a bigger hit than that.'' Only one night before in Game 3, Rodriguez produced perhaps his biggest hit to date, a two-run home run that got the Yankees started on a comeback in an 8-5 victory.
"I'm happy for him,'' Reggie said. 'It's nice to watch great players.''
One teammate remarked that he hoped Rodriguez's homer on Saturday "loosened'' A-Rod up, just another suggestion that Rodriguez's mood is so vital to the team's success that it is constantly monitored by those around him. Rodriguez, though, attributed his sudden success here to being hit by a pitch for the first time this Series on Saturday, saying it "woke me up'' to the realization that this was the World Series.
He has now been hit three times in two games to tie a full-Series record, and while Rodriguez wouldn't say in the interview room whether he felt that the pitches were accidental, Reggie said, flat out, "I think they're hitting him on purpose.'' When it was suggested to A-Rod as he exited the ballpark on Sunday night that it couldn't possibly be coincidental, he gave a shushing signal by pressing his right index finger up to his mouth. He has always seemed to find the limelight. But now he seems content to stay out of it, if he can.
A-Rod tried again to glorify his teammates by saying that they got to this point with him and fellow star slugger Mark Teixeira doing "not much'' in this World Series, which "tells you what a great, balanced team we've had all year.'' But the reality is that Rodriguez, after six strikeouts in the first two games, has provided the single biggest hits in consecutive nights.
Almost to a man, teammates cite a different A-Rod this year, an A-Rod who is more a part of a 25-man team, who is close to Teixeira and closer to Derek Jeter than he's been since he came to the Yankees, a man who really has tried to stay out of the spotlight, as much as a player who is the highest-paid player in team sports history, a man who is on his way to the all-time home run record and a man who is dating a famous movie starlet can possibly stay out of the spotlight, anyway.
Rodriguez attributed his spectacular October to expectations that were reduced after his spring steroid revelation. "For the first time in my career, I've felt like an underdog,'' he said.
Whatever did it, those closest to him notice a change.
"He's more patient, more relaxed, more comfortable,'' Reggie said.
And now he's within a game of writing a new lead for his own life story.