10/08/06 2:00 AM ET
A-Rod, fairly or not, Yanks lightning rod
Third baseman's struggles at plate mirror that of team in ALDS
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The All-Star third baseman was stuck in the on-deck circle early Saturday evening to witness the celebration. This, after an 8-3 loss that ended the season for the Yankees, favored by so many entering this Division Series.
The hollow feeling of October has become unfortunate old hat for the gifted A-Rod, who went 1-for-14 in this series.
"It's disappointing," Rodriguez said. "You always want to do well. You want to go out and hit .500 and help your team move on to the next series. It just didn't happen."
Though the Yankees took a collective tumble in this series, particularly at the plate, Rodriguez, for whatever reason, fair or unfair, seemed to be a picture of the futility.
"I think the attention to him is unfortunate, I do," said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. "I know he's trying, he's trying as hard as you can try -- probably too much -- and it works against him. He didn't perform this series, but there's a lot of other people who let us down at the same time."
Typically a cleanup man, Rodriguez was demoted to the sixth spot in the lineup for the first two games, and then hit eighth in Saturday's loss.
The last time he hit eighth was some 10 years ago with the Mariners.
"This time of year, you just move on," said Rodriguez. "I've got no one to blame but myself. Joe Torre's been incredible with me. You have to look in the mirror and address that."
Again, Rodriguez was not the reason the Yankees lost this series. That blame couldn't possibly be put on one player, let alone two or three.
Jason Giambi, who was benched for Game 4, was 1-for-8. Gary Sheffield, who rode the pine in Game 3, produced just one hit in 12 at-bats. Robinson Cano went 2-for-15.
But there's no hiding the fact that Rodriguez is in a big-time slump in the postseason. Dating back to Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series, Rodriguez has five hits in his last 46 postseason at-bats. The Yankees as a team are 3-10 in that span.
"Well, I think I certainly have to do well for this team to win. That's it," said Rodriguez.
Is this it for Rodriguez in New York? There are trade rumblings already out there. This, despite the fact he has a no-trade clause, and four years left on his record-setting contract. It has been a rough year for Rodriguez, thanks to inconsistent play on both sides of the ball, which made him a frequent target of the fans.
"I'm committed to being part of the solution here, I believe I am," Rodriguez said. "I'm committed to come back next year and do it again. I sometimes sense that some of you guys [in the media] want me out of here. But, certainly, I don't want to leave here. I know I'm part of the solution. I'll just come back and work harder and be part of a champion. I know I can do that."
The Yankees knew that this wasn't the day to place blame at anyone's locker, let alone someone with so much talent.
"Never point fingers at teammates," said Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon. "These are the guys you've counted on all year. If there's any finger pointing, you can point it to our whole team."
Rodriguez vowed to search for the reasons of his October struggles and try to get past them.
"I've been successful in New York during the regular season," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, I have to find success in the postseason. There's a lot to be learned from guys like [Derek] Jeter and [Jorge] Posada and Bernie [Williams] and Joe [Torre], the guys that have done it. It seems like they play so relaxed. Posada, Jeter, they had monster series. There's something to be learned from those guys."
If Rodriguez looked tense, he didn't feel so.
"I don't know how to explain it," Rodriguez said. "I hit some balls hard that got caught. I'll tell you, if there's a frustrating part, it's that I felt very comfortable, very relaxed. I had some good swings, I had some bad swings. That's a numbers game. Overall, I wish I could have done better."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.