Who would've thought, when the steroids story broke this spring, that it was all Alex Rodriguez needed to learn how to play baseball the right way?
A season of clutch performances later, highlighted by A-Rod's game-tying two-run homer off Minnesota's impressive closer Joe Nathan last night in game 2 of the American League Division Series, there is little doubt that this is a new man that Yankees fans are seeing.
For years, maybe for his whole career, though it undoubtedly worsened as his career numbers swelled, Rodriguez was caught in the creation of his own superhero ego. With it destroyed, he has played this year like he has nothing to lose but a baseball game, which he suddenly values more highly than anything else.
Though it is hard to forgive him for his errors in judgment, and for the role those errors will likely play in his placement atop the career home run list, A-Rod has taken the steps necessary to give himself a chance to be remembered for a different reason.
The impact that Rodriguez has had on the Yankees since his return this season is measurable. They were 13-15 through their first 28 games. After his return, they went 90-44 and established themselves as the best team in baseball this season. His 30 home runs and 100 RBI this season amount to another great statistical season. Mark Teixeira's resurgence after his return was certainly aided by Rodriguez hitting behind him.
But now, A-Rod seems to be locked in and has a chance to create a new identity. His very clutch home run and five RBIs through the first two games of the playoffs have carried the club. And if he keeps it up, and the Yanks win the World Series this year, he will be a hero. And he will be the kind of hero he has never been before. The two home runs and seven RBIs in the sixth inning of the final game of the season are looking more and more like a warning call to the postseason teams than a last-minute grab for statistics. Watch out baseball, A-Rod showed up to play this October.