A Rejuvenated Alex Rodriguez Turns Back Time

by Adam Smith

Alex Rodriguez has been booed, belittled, disparaged and discounted for so long, he can barely remember what it’s like to feel wanted or remotely close to what a superstar is supposed to feel like. Based on the magazine profiles that have provided a window into his soul, this is a fundamental need that cuts to the core of his very A-Rod-ness. So he had to be churning with emotion on a throwback Thursday night in the Bronx.

After launching a Chris Tillman changeup over the center-field fence to pass Willie Mays on MLB’s career home run list with No. 661, Rodriguez descended the steps to the dugout and received a series of jubilant high-fives from his New York teammates. And then, as the crowd cheered wildly, manager Joe Girardi and the other Yankees urged him to respond and he quickly ascended the steps for a curtain call.

He’s down, then up. Talk about a fitting late-career snapshot for a 39-year-old, disgraced, could-have-been Hall of Famer. “It’s been a long time,” said Rodriguez, whose homer provided the winning run in a 4-3 Yankees victory. “I actually thought the days of curtain calls for me were long gone. A year ago today, I never thought I would ever get a curtain call or be hitting in the middle of the lineup for the New York Yankees.

For every Yankees fan who revels in watching Rodriguez turn back time, there’s a corresponding Red Sox fan who’ll always loathe him or a baseball skeptic who’ll question whether he’s clean and PED-free. For that lingering perception, Rodriguez has only himself to blame. He’s long past the point of reinventing himself. But that doesn’t mean Rodriguez can’t enjoy this latest run, hitting homers, slugging .532 and playing a central role for a Yankees team that’s giving the impression it might have some staying power in a jumbled American League East.

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