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Imagine the Red Sox or any other team throwing similar putdowns at other high-priced Yankee stars, past or present. Derek Jeter, Reggie Jackson, Dave Winfield, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield. Every one of them is or was too respected, or feared, to ever become the Red Sox's whipping boy, as A-Rod has. That's why Rodriguez needs to establish that he has he has an edge, that he has enough of a nasty streak to give as good as he gets. He needs to stop measuring his words, stop attempting to stay above the fray, stop trying so hard to project a smooth, polished image that he comes across as soulless. It's time for A-Rod to get down and dirty if he wants to earn the respect of the Red Sox and, more important, his Yankees teammates.
The Yanks haven't exactly rushed to A-Rod's defense during the pummeling he's taking, which indicates one of two things -- they agree with the Sox, or they want to see how Rodriguez handles it. The Yankees, from owner George Steinbrenner on down, would no doubt like to see Rodriguez get angry. They would like to see him strut a little bit, the way Yankees do. They would like to hear him say, "Matt Mantei? Of course I forgot Matt Mantei. If you were the best player in the game, you'd forget Matt Mantei, too." The Yanks would like to hear him say that guys like Nixon and Arroyo couldn't carry his pine tar rag.
Steinbrenner had an offseason talk with A-Rod in which he told his third baseman that he expected more than another nice season from him, that it was time he stepped up and played like a great Yankee. The great Yankees -- the great players of any team -- tend to play a little bit angry. Alex Rodriguez needs to show some anger this season, and the Boston Red Sox have given him a good place to start.