Alex Rodriguez may get booed mercilessly in visiting ball parks this season, but he probably felt right at home at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. Yes, Rodriguez, who went 1-for-2 with a walk in a 6-1 loss to Toronto, was cheered heartily by the home faithful.
Damon Amendolara, for one, was surprised by that. Sweeny Murti, however, was not.
“Not entirely,” the WFAN Yankees reporter said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It’s not like he’s come and disrupted the Good Ship Lollipop. I think fans realize that this was a Yankees team that has some flaws, and A-Rod doesn’t have to be one of the flaws. He can actually help them. I think it’s too early to tell which one he is, but he clearly has something to offer to a team that lacked offensive power the last couple of years. We’ll see if he’s able to provide it. But fans are smart enough to know that he can help what is not written in stone as a playoff team.”
It also helps that A-Rod was on his best behavior in spring training. He said the right things, he did the right things and he didn’t become a distraction. That was good, right?
“Yeah, I think so,” Murti said. “He kept using a lot of the same words and phrases all over again pretty much every day, and listen, most of the questions were the same each day. But it’s clear that he’s kind of sticking to a certain script that he’s hoping doesn’t get him in too much trouble. So far, it worked. A lot of people, when he first came to spring training, were saying, ‘Oh, look at this media circus.’ And I’ve said many times – maybe even to you – the only people calling it a circus are the ones who aren’t there. It really was not a big deal. He got a lot of coverage. He got a lot of coverage early in spring training. Because why not? He’s one of the most famous baseball players ever. But there was nothing circus-like about the atmosphere around it. He just happened to be a guy who we were all curious to hear how he was going to play baseball for the first time in a couple years. He’s received all passing marks so far. Whether he makes the honor roll or not, we’ll have to see.”
The Yankees, for better or worse, will need the 39-year-old Rodriguez to produce this season if they hope to make the playoffs. There are a few bright spot in the lineup and on the pitching staff, but overall, the Yankees have a lot of question marks.
“The rest of the offensive players on this team, there are a couple of stars on the downside that you hope have good years,” Murti said. “There are a couple of guys who are (being billed) as stars but probably aren’t the type of stars you’re going to (spend money) to come out and see. (Masahiro) Tanaka left kind of a dud out there with a five-run third inning (on Monday), so the fans are left kind of waiting for something. And if you think about it, here’s a guy who has provided them some of those moments that you’re waiting for those other guys to provide. Whether you’re talking about Jacoby Ellsbury or Brian McCann – guys who are more in their prime – none of them have had the kind of moments A-Rod has had.
“Now, we’ve seen and we all know now how some of those were accomplished,” Murti continued, “but when you just want your team to win, I guess maybe you’re trying to capture some of that old magic and see if there’s something there. I think we’re a long way away from that and I think the bar is pretty low on what you’ll take from A-Rod and a successful season. But yeah, it’s fair to say they’re kind of looking for something out there, and they’re kind of hoping A-Rod will provide it.”