Saturday, January 31, 2009

A-Rod: It Must Be The Name (#13)

I often admonish writers for trying to compare individual sports to team sports. Please admonish me if I fail to contrive a worthwhile comparison between Alex Rodriguez and Andy Roddick. Here it is.

Like Alex Rodriguez, Andy Roddick has all of the physical tools—including a record 155 MPH serve and a powerful forehand. Also, like Alex, he is a good looking, marketable gentleman as he currently endorses Rolex, Lexus, American Express and Lacoste. He is also known for his sense of humor and hyperactivity, and is often overheard on television trading jokes with the crowd during matches.

The Two A-Rods are perhaps best known for their inability to conquer their respective boogeymen. For the tennis player it is Roger Federer. In his career, Roddick is 2-16 against Federer; including 0-7 in Grand Slam play and 0-3 in Grand Slam Finals. For the baseball player, that monster is the Postseason. His October line is .279/.361/.483, which pales in comparison to his career line of .306/.389/.578, especially in terms of slugging percentage.

Driving their fans to AA, Alex and Andy have not done much on the big stage in about 5 years. Since Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS ( I have now re-erased the memory from my brain), A-Rod has come to the plate in the postseason with 38 runners on base and has stranded every single one of them. This is despite being the highest paid player in Major League Baseball. In this time, Roddick has not won any Grand Slam, despite being one of the highest-paid purse winners in tennis.

Their most famous (or should I say infamous?) mutual shortcoming is their failure to stabilize the greatness that preceded them. Once Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees on the supposed “Valentine’s Day Massacre” in 2004, he was expected to bring a World Series title to Bronx almost every year he was on the team. Since his arrival, the Yankees have not won a single championship. Roddick was supposed to continue the American dominance of tennis associated with Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. However, his single Grand Slam title has failed to sustain this dominance.

Roddick and Rodriguez appear to possess many of the same negative attributes. Although they possess some of the best physical tools in their respective sports, their mental psyches have forestalled them from becoming all-time greats. Both have a great drive to win and are tremendously competitive. However, this admirable competitive drive seems to conquer their bodies at key times and their performance suffers.

Both appear to have a pre-programmed, mechanical gameplan and often fail to adjust the situation accordingly. Rodriguez is a guess hitter. Even when he is down in the count he focuses on a location over the plate instead of adjusting to the contact and making simple contact. Often with runners in scoring position he is hellbent on hitting a big HR. Roddick bases his entire game on his lightning quick serve. He relies on it to get points via aces or set up his nice forehand. However, in the event that an opponent is able to play his serve, his decision to camp out on the baseline makes it difficult to return a ball on his backhand side.

Maybe it was unfair for all of these expectations to be levied upon the two A-Rods. However, as St. Luke told us in his Gospel, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Despite being given tremendous talent, all that Alex and Andy have provided are heartache and despair.

To succeed, I would simply recommend that they take a deep breath, relax and let the game come to them instead of trying to be the game themselves.

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