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Ken Davidoff's Baseball Insider


In his first four trips to the postseason with the Yankees, Rodriguez's bat was nowhere to be found. Dating from Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS, A-Rod was 0-for-29 with runners in scoring position. That all changed in 2009 with two game-tying homers in the ALDS, one in the ALCS and six RBIs in the World Series as the Yanks ended their nine-year drought. Credit: John Dunn

Here in our little corner of Newsday’s sports section, we’ve established an annual honor known as the Baseball Person of the Year. It’s given not necessarily to someone who accomplished great things, but rather the person who best reminds us how much further we have to go as a civilization and a species.

Given that criteria, 2009 proved a slam dunk. Congratulations, Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod kicked off spring training as the easiest of targets, copping to past usage of illegal performance-enhancing drugs after a Sports Illustrated report outed him. But by the end of the World Series, he had us backing off finger-wagging moralism, and re-thinking the game’s entire “Steroids Era.”

The hating, after a while, seemed silly. After all, A-Rod was one of many to indulge in such illegal activity, and at least he admitted to it. Selena Roberts' book on A-Rod featured more unsubstantiated whispers than hard facts.

The notion that the Yankees would be better off without him? Ludicrous, as the team displayed with a shaky first month after A-Rod missed time with a hip injury.

No, ultimately, all of the negativity around A-Rod dissipated with some quiet behavior and loud hits. And if that’s all it took to appease the masses, then the masses were probably ill-guided in the first place.

A-Rod joins Barry Bonds’ former trainer Greg Anderson (2006), Jackie Robinson’s widow Rachel Robinson (2007) and Roger Clemens (2008) as winners of this award.

Braves’ New World

Before you kill the Braves for the package they received from the Yankees in return for Javier Vazquez, let’s see how young Arodys Vizcaino develops. The Braves had tried to sign the right-hander, who just turned 19 last month, as an amateur before the Yankees landed him.

Baseball America had ranked Vizcaino as the Yankees’ third-best prospect. For the Yankees, trading Vizcaino was a risk worth taking to get Vazquez, and the hope is that Vazquez maintains his Type A status so that, a year from now, the Yankees can recoup two draft picks if they decide to let him go.

Meanwhile, the Yankees’ two trades this offseason have emphasized the importance of using the Arizona Fall League to showcase players. Ian Kennedy impressed the Diamondbacks so that Kennedy’s inclusion helped the Yankees get Curtis Granderson, and Braves officials loved Michael Dunn.

The Price for Escobar

Newsday has confirmed that the Mets will guarantee Kelvim Escobar $1.25 million. Escobar can make $125,000 for qualifying for the Mets’ opening-day roster, and there are bonuses totaling $2 million based on games pitched, and another $1 million based on games finished.

If the Mets’ plan goes as they hope, then Escobar will set up for closer Francisco Rodriguez, thereby earning plenty of those “games pitched” bonuses but not many “games finished.”

Extra Bases

The A’s continued to make little moves to bolster themselves, signing Coco Crisp and bringing back Justin Duscherer, who missed all of 2009 with a right elbow injury and clinical depression. While the American League West figures to be very competitive in 2010, Oakland officials think a winning record is feasible next season, followed by full-fledged contention in 2010.

Hank Steinbrenner may not be very involved with the Yankees’ baseball operations anymore, but he attended the team’s holiday party in Tampa. Hank’s brother Hal didn’t make it. Nor did George Steinbrenner’s brother-in-law Felix Lopez, who _ clearly not aware of the Curse of the Rings that plagued the organization for eight years _ has been limiting the number of Tampa-based employees who will receive a 2009 World Series ring.

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