Well Done, Mr. April

April is Doris Day and Roy Bolger dancing in the streets of Paris. It's the fresh scent in Downy, payday for Uncle Sam, a prelude to May flowers.

April is when fans in Cleveland and Milwaukee can wake to find their teams in first place and delude themselves into thinking it will always be. It is the month to dream before dreams are extinguished by the hand of summer. The old baseball adage may hold that wins in April weigh the same as wins in September, but they always seem to be more plentiful now.

April is and has been many things. This year, it was A-Rod's.

In the century plus since baseball started counting things, a more prolific month has never been tallied than Alex Rodriguez's April. He hit safely in 20 of his New York Yankees' 23 games, and at a .355 clip. With 14 homers, he tied the April mark set last year by Albert Pujols. His 34 RBI were one short of Juan Gonzalez during the latter's MVP season in 1998. Rodriguez had four more homers and just one fewer RBI than Boston's Gold Dust Twins of David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combined.

Despite it all, the Yankees find themselves 6½ games behind Ortiz, Ramirez, and Company at month's end.

If you believe in the magic of extrapolation, figure Rodriguez for 99 homers and 239 RBI. Until the last days in April, he was on pace to hit both his 500th and 600th career homers this season. He'll account for 331 runs, which is 42% of 2006's average team offense over the entire season. But as for his team, they'll win 63 and lose 99.

So much for math. The Yankees are as apt to lose 99 games as Rodriguez is to hit 99 homers. They are the exception to another baseball adage that pennants can never be won in April, but they can be lost.

New York starts May in exactly the same position they found themselves two years earlier — last place in the American League East, 6½ games out of first. And the 2005 club hadn't even hit their low-water mark. That came on May 6th, when they fell to 11-19 and nine games back. Nonetheless, they managed to win the division, albeit with an asterisk when a potential one-game playoff with the Red Sox was foregone in favor of avoiding November baseball.

Precedent suggests there is no need for concern in the Bronx. Still, one has to wonder where the Yankees would be if it weren't for the Hundred Years April of Alex Rodriguez.

Start by sliding two wins over to the lost column. Those would be the beneficiaries of A-Rod's two two-out, walk-off home runs that capped improbable comebacks against the Orioles and Indians. As bad as the Bronx April was, a 7-16 alternative may have spelled the difference in manager Joe Torre's tenure, subject as it is to the vagaries of a bi-polar owner. More than anything, Torre's calming demeanor righted the ship in 2005, and it can do so again.

Of course, the Yankees' rotation and bullpen aren't as sure as they were two years ago. If they are to wake from their winter hibernation, it will take more than Torre's pixie dust. They need another dependable starter, and starters collectively need to shorten the game for their bullpen, which leads the majors with 4.2 relief innings per game through April. In short, the Yankees need Roger Clemens, and it's up to A-Rod to keep things within Rocket range, lest he opts to spend his swan-song in the greener pastures of Fenway Park.

The numbing reality is that his teammates' lackluster play has had all the erosive effects on Rodriguez's gaudy production as time has on the dollar bills in my wallet. Even worse, his production is due to seek its own level, albeit the much higher level of one of the game's true superstars. There's already a leveling. A-Rod didn't homer over his last 18 April at-bats after averaging one in every 5.4 at bats until then. And he didn't drive in a run over his last five games, his longest draught of the young season. The opportunity may have been squandered.

Pinstripers hope that, with Hideki Matsui and Chien-Ming Wang back in the lineup, Rodriguez may not have to keep it up. In fact, he may have already done enough to bring his team to that last stepping stone before the river deepens and the only means to cross lie in Torre's pixie dust and Roger's right arm. Should this be the case, the MVP Electoral College must weigh these April accomplishments on even par with those down the stretch.

Yankee Fan has impatiently awaited in A-Rod the reincarnation of Mr. October that once brought glory to the Bronx. The problem this season is that, without a Mr. April, October may not come.

Comments and Conversation

May 23, 2007


Yankee fans don’t boo a-rod because he of his play they boo him because we gave up Sorionto for him and got robbed

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