I admit I was a nay-sayer of Alex 2006. I neigh'd big. I'd say to any listener: 'He's a roto-star - a hanger of numbers that don't win games.' At one point I said: 'Even if he hits 4 homers to win the 7th game of a World Series, I feel like he should have closed the deal in game 6.' He was pushing down so hard on the pedal - got stuck in over-think neutral.
There was no love. For him. From him. For the game.
His brain last season: 'My swing doesn't feel right. Does it look okay? Is this the way my swing looks? Like this? This?'
He said he had a therapist. His wife is a therapist. I'm sure he has several physical therapists. And you know all of his therapists have therapists to take on the over-flow of A-Rod's psychic/physic past/present issues and future therapeutically treatable expectations.
Which is fine: I have a shrink too. I had one before that for 12 years. And interviewed several head-shrinkers in between the one I have now and the one before. And physical therapists to massage out the tears that talking won't release.
Wait a minute.
Is this on-going A-Rod analysis becoming about me?
That's not right.
Oh yes it is: This is my blog. My writing. My time. My sharing. I'm coming out. Breaking through the bars of my self imposed prison. I'm leaping out of a cage. You can't stop me. Like a big cat. A leopard. No, a big black cat. Purr. Paw you. And I have claws. Like a PUMA!
I'm a puma like A-Rod who just needed to let it all go, let it all flow, and re-channel all of that time/energy he was spending on meeting expectations into hitting the baseball hard and far.
And what was really bothering me is I just don't like it when the talent can't find mode mojo.
Yes, I like the hard-working underdogs. David Eckstein. King Leyritz. The ones who squeeze many lemons to get a few useful skill driplettes.
But I feel most mellow when full-on genius finds itself. It's a relief. Monkey off the back. The world seems less chaotic. The big albatross drop. A respite from random heavenly bodies bouncing off of bad luck meteorites.
And in the world as it is - this Dancing with the Stars context - watching someone be really good is just far more uplifting than watching someone who can't sing advancing to the next week on American Idol.
I want more Federer returning Roddick's 141 mph serves - harder and right back at Andy's shoe tops.
And Ichiro: watch him throw with time to get that running start into the catch. Like a teeny howitzer who also happens to be the second coming of Ty Cobb. (Minus the chip next to the red neck.) Ichiro gets half way to first while his bat is still making contact with the pitch.
Timberlake too. Justin. Stop laughing you mannered hipsters. He is talented. For real. Forget the boys he came up with. Or his complicity in the corporately disapproved yet sub textually endorsed Janet Jackson costume malfunction at the yearly worship service for consumption known as the Super Bowl.
Timberlake can sing. Notes. A song. A feeling. Heart felt. Balls out. Groove ON.
I was dismissive. Until I saw him at the Grammy's a few clicks back. Behind the keyboard centerstage. He sang well. No Lipsinka. He could really play. Lead a big band. Fill the room with his talent. So many lovesexy deflections off of him, the audience, the walls and all. His whiteness an issue soon forgotten. Bad/good. Bad ass. Reverent to the Funk/Pop giants but not a tribute act.
And the big test: can he dance?
He can dance. Dance until I dance. And I'm not being microwaved into it. I listen to my pod and imagine doing stripper pole work in front of my fellow subway commuters; they look a bit non-plussed. But when I tell them it's Justin Timberlake, they nod and smile 'Oh yeah, he's good!'
This is good. No more looking like he's trying to show you he's trying hard because he's really doing it. Hold the bat loosely, squeeze only at the moment of contact. Relax. Stay back. Let wrists turn quick. Bat flick. Pop flies to the upper deck.
Very few do this over the long trek that is a baseball campaign. I've seen pitchers run the table. Guidry 1978. But a hitter for almost an entire season? This is rare. Honus and the Georgia Peach. Hornsby. The Babe. The Iron Horse who considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. Double XX (Jimmie Foxx). Greenberg. Teddy, Joe and Stan . Say Hey and the Mick. Hammerin' Hank and Frank. Cleh-mehn-teh. Those who were there say Yaz in '67 was the best they ever saw. Reggie for a night. Schmidt. Mattingly when he was a doubles machine. Jeter when it matters. And Barry. Open his veins and he bleeds the river Eli Lilly, but he is most excellent.
And now A-Rod the brilliant ball player has freed me from fretting over A-Rod the person, person, personality. Yes, he can seem like the homecoming king and queen rolled into one self-conscious package for public consumption. But he's no wedding cake statue on the field.
Rodriguez is $. But not from the mediocre but inherited rich bucket. No Hilton Paris in Pinstripes. A-Rod gleamed early. Coaches trusted their eyes. Then he kept at it. Still gets to the ballpark before the rooks and sophomores (Melky and Cano). He's been so good for so long that his 'bad' 2006 season is a career year for almost any other actor in the show.
Only one more back monkey to stab - the clutch issue. I think he can keep the stroke enfuego for as long as the wood needs to burn. (Ted Williams would ask a young slugger if he knew the smell of a smoked foul tip.) He's letting nothing stand in his way. No gimpy ankle. Nobody's opinion. His home runs are important now; they force early capitulation from the squads without game.
And he's passing the greats on the all-time home run leader board. At 32. I tell him to remain elite and pass Bonds about the time we're out of the mess-world that the average talents have left us - say just before the end of the next President's first term?