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A-Rod set for 'different' postseason10/04/2004 6:37 PM ET
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Because he is now a member of baseball's most storied franchise and was brought here for the express purpose of bringing a World Series title back to the Bronx, this is Alex Rodriguez's first postseason of sorts.
Believe it or not, Rodriguez has played 15 postseason games, which includes two American League Championship Series. Yet, Rodriguez's postseason career could take a whole new shape on Tuesday, when the Yankees open the Division Series with the Minnesota Twins.
Let's put it this way. There are A-Rod's playoff games before the Yankees and A-Rod's playoff games as a Yankee. The audience and degree of scrutiny will be exponentially higher for the latter.
"Alex wasn't brought to us to get to the World Series, he was brought here to help us win," teammate Derek Jeter said. "I don't think it's fair to say all the pressure's on him. I am sure the spotlight will be on, but it's on everyone."
The three Seattle teams that advanced to the playoffs with Rodriguez at shortstop were not favorites to win the World Series. The 1995 club, in which Rodriguez was a 20-year-old rookie who barely made the postseason roster, were the AL West champs.
The 1997 team, featuring Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez in their primes, was gobbled up by the more talented Orioles in four games. In 2000, A-Rod's Mariners matched up against the Bombers in the ALCS but lost in six games.
Rodriguez watched as David Justice, a slugger brought in from Cleveland to help the Yankees win the title, swatted a seventh-inning home run in Game 6 as New York scored six times to seal another trip to the World Series.
"I've been here for a lot of postseason games as an opposing player, it should be pretty exciting," he said after the Yankees workout. "Being spoiled with [manager] Lou Piniella in Seattle and going [to the playoffs] three out of six years, that's a great ratio -- except if you are a Yankee."
During his first season in the Bronx, he has schmoozed with former Yankees who are now icons because of their postseason exploits.
Rodriguez had a solid regular season, hitting .286 with 36 homers and 106 RBIs. But what could determine whether the Yankees made the right call in acquiring him from Texas for gifted Alfonso Soriano is how he performs on the glittering stage of the playoffs.
"I think the barometer is always set here with how many championships you win," he said. "That's why you see guys like Reggie [Jackson] and Jeter and those guys are legends and icons in New York, forever. You measure yourself with winning here."
Jackson, who watched the Yankees workout in preparation for Game 1, played in three World Series before arriving in New York. But his amazing three-home run performance in Game 6 of the 1977 series was the trademark of his career and earned him the moniker, "Mr. October."
Jeter has been a splendid player in the regular season, but he has gained his clutch reputation with a .314 lifetime postseason average and remarkable defensive plays, including his dive into stands to snare a foul ball in Game 5 of the 2001 Division Series, and his famous flip to Jorge Posada to nab Oakland's Jeremy Giambi trying to score in Game 3.
A day before his first postseason game in pinstripes, the importance of performing in the playoffs was not lost on Rodriguez.
"The biggest difference has been when you are with other teams, you have to elevate your game so much higher to go to the postseason," he said. "But here in New York, a hot day in July is like the World Series, that's the perception around us."
Rodriguez was a Players Union ruling away from joining the Boston Red Sox in the offseason. Without donning either uniform, Rodriguez became one of the central parts of the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry. After a three-year World Series title drought, the Yankees acquired Rodriguez and he agreed to move to third base to play alongside Jeter and have a chance at a title.
He doesn't believe his Yankee postseason output should define his career, but he understands if it does.
"If you think about it, I'm 29 and hopefully have 11 or 12 years left," he said. "It's not like I am sitting here at 39 and this is my last chance. It's all a perspective, but it is important. That's why I came here and that's why I have made the concessions that I have made because of playing in October, and having the opportunity to play for the Yankees."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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