Nationals

A-Rod's October brings Snub Seen 'Round the World

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A-Rod's October brings Snub Seen 'Round the World

NEW YORK (AP) His production shriveled, his aura dissipated, his place in history unsettled and his ego almost certainly bruised, Alex Rodriguez took a seat following the Snub Seen `Round the World and became a spectator, little different than the 50,000 other fans at Yankee Stadium.

At age 37, he has become perhaps the biggest hole in the New York Yankees' batting order this October, a close-to-automatic out.

The $275 million man lives for moments like the one Wednesday night, when the game and his team's season were tottering on a high wire between success and setback.

A player who has spent his entire career trying to gain affection was told he was unwanted, at least not then. So he sat in the front row of the dugout, chin resting on his left hand, and watched as Raul Ibanez pinch hit for him and stroked the home run A-Rod wanted to hit, received the adulation Rodriguez craves.

Afterward in the clubhouse, A-Rod said all the right things.

``Maybe 10 years ago I would have reacted in a much different way,'' he explained.

While Ibanez's home runs in the ninth and 12th innings gave the Yankees a 3-2 win over Baltimore and a 2-1 AL division series lead, the fallout will linger for the rest of A-Rod's contract, which pays him $114 million over the next five years.

``He wasn't angry. I don't think it will change our relationship,'' manager Joe Girardi said Thursday. ``I saw Al's expression when Raul hit the home run, and you see the type of team player he is.''

Still, it had to sting. And Girardi pinch hit for him again in Game 4, sending Eric Chavez up for what would be the final out in a 2-1, 13-inning loss that forced a decisive fifth game Friday.

``If you're Alex Rodriguez and you have 650 home runs, I've got to believe he believes he could have done the same thing,'' Girardi said. ``I had to make a hard decision, and we'll get by that.''

And it was a choice noticed around the major leagues.

``That's the toughest decision a manager ever has to face,'' said Washington's Davey Johnson, a veteran of New York's craziness from his time managing the Mets. ``There's times maybe I've thought about it, but I haven't pulled that trigger.''

Rodriguez's career has had more drama than one of those ``Real Housewives'' shows.

Even before that February 2009 day in Tampa where he sat under the tent and admitted using performance-enhancing drugs - ``I didn't think they were steroids,'' he said before adding, ``I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs'' - his body began to break down.

He played seven full seasons without a major injury before a strained quadriceps in 2008 became the first of a string of ailments that caused five trips to the disabled list in five seasons. There was the hip surgery in 2009, the strained calf in 2010, the knee surgery in 2011 and the broken hand this year.

He hasn't reached 30 homers or 100 RBIs since 2010, hasn't hit .300 since 2008. Fifth on the career list with 647 homers, Rodriguez has become a long shot to break Barry Bonds' record of 762 when just a few years ago it was such a foregone conclusion that bonuses were written into his contract.

And since his remarkable postseason helped New York win the 2009 World Series, he's reverted to October bust by going 10 for 66 (.152) with no homers and six RBIs in postseason play, including 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts this year. Rodriguez hasn't homered in 84 at-bats since Sept. 14 and has been overwhelmed by good fastballs, his hands slow, his timing off. Greeted with light applause for his first at-bat Wednesday night, he was booed loudly by the late innings and even more intently Thursday when he struck out in the eighth inning with runners at second and third.

Some may not think that's worth the $40.7 million he is costing the Yankees this year: $29 million in salary plus $11,687,500 in luxury tax. The money makes the scrutiny only more intense.

So does his social circle. He has dated celebrity girlfriends such as Madonna, Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz.

Even knowing the Yankees loathe blemishes on their pristine pinstripes, he couldn't stop himself from making repeated splashes in the New York tabloids by associating with a stripper in Toronto, stopping by a swingers' club in Dallas and gambling at illegal poker hangouts.

For all of A-Rod's talk about his desire to just fit in, he'll almost certainly never be loved by Yankees fan the way they adore Derek Jeter.

``Derek has four world championships and I want him to have 10. That's what this is all about,'' Rodriguez said when he arrived in 2004.

Since then, the Yankees have won only once. And as A-Rod acknowledged on his first day with the team, World Series rings is the only number that counts.

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MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

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USA Today Sports

MLB All-Star FanFest: Searching for a jersey from every team

A sea of red and white Nationals jerseys flooded toward the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. But there wasn’t a Bryce Harper signing. And there wasn’t even a game. The Nationals are in New York to play the Mets. 

Then, as I turned and walked down the street I began to see random jerseys: Phillies, Yankees, Astros and Mets, among others.

It all clicked.

Ah, yes, the MLB All-Star weekend and its annual FanFest

As I walked inside the building and looked around, there was everything from memorabilia to interactive games like a speed gun, home run derby and more. 

MLB fans filled the building and the once-sea of red and white thinned out into a blob of colors. Fans from all different teams came out for the weekend’s festivities.

This left me curious: Could I find a jersey for every MLB team?

It was easy to find the big name teams. Going down the escalator, I was hit with a couple Jacob deGrom jerseys and a Carlos Correa one, as well. 

Mets, check. Astros, check.

A right turn and there was an Aaron Nola jersey, the All-Star phenom who surprised this year for the first-place Phillies. Check.

The Yankees and Red Sox weren’t far behind. 

As the day went on, my notepad of teams kept getting crossed off. The National League Central was the first division to go, and the American League Central followed suit. Surprisngly, it took me a couple hours — of course, I wasn't searching the whole time — to find the Marlins. Every other NL East team was easy.

Three hours later, I had found all but five teams: Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels. 

I decided to take another lap before I left. And standing, right by the stolen base activity, stood a man in a Randy Johnson throwback Diamondbacks jersey. 

We both look at the kids running down the line toward the base before a purple jersey caught my eye. It was another kid, waiting in line, wearing a Nolan Arenado jersey.

That left me with just three more teams. As I headed toward the exit, I was shocked I had not seen a Mike Trout jersey. One of the greatest players in modern baseball and not one Angels fan.

Then a co-worker pointed toward the MLB shop area. Finally, a Trout jersey. And then I turned around to grab my backpack and notebook. Another Trout jersey. Weird. I crossed off the name and looked up. Another Angels jersey. OK, enough. 

With just two more jerseys left and me being the stubborn person I am, I walked around the FanFest for another 20 minutes, looking for that green A’s jersey, or dark blue Rays one. 

Then, I finally found Stomper, the Athletics mascot taking photos with kids. On him was an A’s jersey — ironic, right? 

After about 10 more minutes I gave up. There were no Rays jerseys. The best I could do was a Tampa Bay tank top a woman was wearing while her kids played. But, that doesn’t count. We’re looking for jerseys.

Oh, and here are other sports apparel that I saw before that non-existent Rays jersey.

  • Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan t-shirt
  • San Francisco 49ers Jimmy Garoppolo jersey 
  • A Texas Longhorns athletic shirt
  • France soccer jersey
  • Philadelphia 76ers shirt
  • Montreal Expos Vlad Guerrero jersey
  • Oakland Raiders Bo Jackson jersey
  • Golden State Warriors Steph Curry jersey
  • DC United Wayne Rooney jersey

And so, the search for a Rays jersey continues. 

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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