Superstar athletes are humans too. While at times, they seem to be unstoppable, they too can only dream of being immune to slumps, errors, and strikeouts. Albert Pujols, nicknamed “The Machine”, played the first month of the 2011 season without a home run, and a batting average of .214; over .100 points lower than his career .325 average. This is equally true for Yankees slugging 3rd baseman, Alex Rodriguez. In these 2012 Major League Baseball playoffs, Rodriguez struggled to the point where manager Joe Girardi was forced to mercifully bench the superstar in must-win games. What makes Rodriguez’s struggles extraordinary is his slump’s severity, his remarkable history, and the critical postseason timing.
Rodriguez’s struggles this postseason resulted in him being pinch-hit for the first time in his career. In six games, he failed to record a hit off a right-handed pitcher or an extra base hit leading to a .120 slugging percentage over .400 points lower than his career percentage. In 27 plate appearances, he struck out 12 times while only working 2 walks. New York City is a high-intensity pressure center so Rodriguez’s struggles earned him jeers from his hometown fans. In the nine playoff games played by the Yankees, he was pulled for a pinch-hitter or benched three times each. Rodriguez’s performance nose-dived this postseason, and it hurt not only him, but his team as well.
Rodriguez’s slump is so noticeable because of the expectations. Rodriguez is one of the highest paid athletes in the world. In 2008, he signed a contract worth $257 million over 10 years. He has played in fourteen All-Star games over his eighteen year career as well as earning three American League Most Valuable Player awards. He is the youngest player to hit 500 home runs and is among seven men all time to hit 600 home runs. Fellow superstar athlete Kobe Bryant, in an interview with ESPN Los Angeles, said he told the struggling Rodriguez by phone, “You’re Alex Rodriguez. You’re A-Rod. You’re one of the best to ever do it.” Bryant implied his friend’s struggles can be traced to a confidence issue, telling him, “But, other times, you have to put your head down and say ‘Hell with it’ and just do your thing.” Rodriguez is widely regarded around the sports world as one of the best to ever play baseball, and his struggles cost the Yankees dearly this postseason.
Every athlete goes through a slump. The problem with Rodriguez’s slump is when it happened. The playoffs are the wrong time for a hitter to go through a three for twenty five stretch. In every sport, the playoffs are the biggest stage, and New York is a multiplier of that limelight. Rodriguez’s struggles became a topic frequently discussed in the media and across the baseball world.
Alex Rodriguez was in a deep slump throughout his 2012 postseason. His .120 batting average without an extra base hit or run batted in earned him a benching from his manager and boos from his hometown fans. Despite being one of the best hitters of his generation,this was not the first playoff slump of Rodriguez has endured. Over the last three seasons, he has mustered just eleven hits in seventy-five postseason at bats for a .147 batting average. Even Superman has kryptonite, and even Albert “The Machine” Pujols is human. This postseason, Alex Rodriguez showed he is anything but an exception.