Last night as A-Rod’s drive cleared the left field bullpen in the first-inning, one renowned sports psychologist turned to a scout who turned to a beat reporter. No words were exchanged. Instead, they all looked at each other knowingly.
They all understood why this was happening, why A-Rod was in the middle of one of the greatest seasons by a Yankee ever.
If you’ll recall last year, the song was very different. Rodriguez struggled. He looked uncomfortable at the plate. There could only be one reason for this.
From Bob Klapisch’s September 20, 2006 column:
[A]ll Giambi was doing was filling a
conversational void created by the one Yankee who could have — and
perhaps should have — confronted A-Rod.
That would be Jeter, of course. If there’s anyone who could make
Rodriguez understand the difference between greatness and greatness
under pressure, it’s the guy batting almost .400 with runners in
scoring position. But anyone hoping for a Jeter-Rodriguez summit
shouldn’t hold their breath. The cold war between them is even more
pronounced than the one with Mussina. Jeter reportedly has never
forgiven A-Rod for the disparaging remarks he made in Esquire in 2001,
and as one Yankee official said, "There is no coming back from one of
Derek’s grudges. Once you’re gone, you’re gone."
Clearly Derek Jeter’s indifference and non-support was torturing A-Rod last year. He was psychologically tormented. The Captain’s failure to embrace A-Rod led directly to A-Rod’s long swing (no chance that the extra weight he was carrying had anything to do with his slowed bat last season. No chance) and his bumbling in the field.
But this year, Jeter became (as we in the sports psychology field like to say) "healthy". When A-Rod passes him in the clubhouse, Derek is sure to make eye-contact, even smile. The turning point, however, occurred the first weekend of the season. After a loss against the Orioles (the game before A-Rod’s grandslam walk-off), Jeter and A-Rod were left alone in the locker-room. A-Rod was nervous, he couldn’t stand this awkward silence that existed between them ever since the Esquire article. He rushed to put his clothes on. But then Derek said something that would change the course of A-Rod’s season, improve his bat-swing, make him play a competent third-base.
"I forgive you." The Captain turned to A-Rod and the two embraced.
And this is why A-Rod is on pace to hit 65 homers.This season you might have noticed that every time the slugger hits a no-doubter he turns to the Yankees dugout first. He’s looking at Jeter. It’s his way of saying, "Thank you for freeing me of this psychological burden."
I am your sports psychologist here to explain why things are happening the way they are in the baseball world. This is my first (and probably last) entry.