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Alex Rodriguez is an amazing baseball player who has put together a fantastic career. He will likely finish his career as one of the top 10 or 15 players in baseball history, and has a chance to take down the all-time home run record. While a lot of his success can be explained by his natural talent, Alex also has a reputation for being a hard worker with an good eye for minor details. His preparation and knowledge of the game are highly regarded, and he frequently does the “little things” that often go unnoticed. A few weeks ago, I cited the following Chad Jennings piece to illustrate this point:
Several weeks ago, Andy Pettitte was talking about Alex Rodriguez and said this:
“He can tell me almost every pitch I’ve thrown throughout the course of a game… He’s always in the game. His head’s up. He’s always prepared. That’s why he’s such a great player.”
Last night, Rodriguez said this: “I chased in the first inning, a slider down, but Westbrook had good stuff. He had us off balance all day. With the exception of a 3-2 fastball away to Jorge, and I think it was a 1-0 changeup to Granderson, he didn’t make many mistakes.”
Pretty much every hitter in the game would have remembered swinging and missing at a slider out of the zone, but I’m not sure how many would have known the count on Posada’s single and Granderson’s home run. Especially not a player who wasn’t close to coming to the plate at the time of those hits.
I bring this up because there was a play in Monday night’s game that really drove home how smart a baseball player Alex is. It was not mentioned by the announcers, and I do not think very many fans noticed it. In the long run, it was a meaningless play, but it was a true illustration of Alex’s baseball savvy.
Alex lead off the 4th inning against Matt Garza in what was a 2-0 game. On a 1-0 count, Alex topped a slider out in front of the plate, slightly to the third base side of home. Most baserunners would have taken off for first, where they likely would have been thrown out. However, Alex realized that the ball had a bit of spin on it, and had a chance of going foul if catcher John Jaso could be prevented from reaching it first. Rather than evacuate the batter’s box and try to beat the very slim odds and make it to first, Alex turned his body so that his width blocked the entire batter’s box, as you can see in the picture above. By doing so, he forced a charging Jaso to go around him in order to field the ball. As it turned out, the ball died a bit and Jaso was able to field it prior to it reaching the foul line, but it was a very heady play by Alex to avoid the natural instinct to go to first base upon making contact and instead try to use the few seconds afforded to the batter occupying the box to impact the play and possibly extend his at-bat.
As I stated earlier, the play was ultimately meaningless, particularly because Alex’s little gambit did not pay off. However, the play provided a clear illustration of his incredible baseball instincts, and displayed an uncommon savvy that is all too often overlooked. You would be hard pressed to find a more instinctual or prepared baseball player than Alex Rodriguez.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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