Saturday, April 21, 2007

"As A-Rod relaxes, Sheffield tenses up"

A lot of the time, movies are simply what they are... fictional stories that rarely bare much truth in everyday life.

But not always (and I'm not talking about flicks based on true stories). Remember the film, "The Fan"? It is about a great baseball player whom a fan is so obsessed with that he will do anything to see the player succeed. When the player starts doing well, the fan finds him and asks about the reason for his newfound success.

The player replies, nonchalantly, that he simply stopped trying so hard, ceased putting so much pressure on himself. That's when the movie takes its Hollywood route, with the fan kidnapping the player's kid, and yada, yada, yada.

But from watching Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield the first few weeks of the season, I think there is some truth to what Wesley Snipes' character says in "The Fan." I don't think Rodriguez necessarily stopped trying so hard – there aren’t many harder workers in the game. I do think he relaxed. He stopped trying to be someone he wasn't (hence his comments about not being best buds with Derek Jeter); he stopped worrying about the boo birds in Yankee Stadium (which explains how twice this week he struck out his first two times up before homering later in the game).

He's not killing himself out there. He's having a lot of fun, and after jacking two more home runs Friday night against Boston, he's got 12 - two shy of Albert Pujols' April record of 14.

Even after lining out in the ninth inning against the Red Sox, who held on for a 7-6 comeback victory, there was no helmet-hitting or cussing. Rodriguez simply shook his head, as if to say, "Bummer. He jammed me. I'll get him next time."

He moved on. He's probably already forgotten about the at-bat and the game, getting ready for a Saturday afternoon game at Fenway.

Also on Friday night, Sheffield looked the exact opposite of Rodriguez. Sheffield always loved playing in Yankee Stadium, in front of the tough-love fans. He never minded getting booed. But now he can't seem to find himself in Detroit.

With the tying run on third in the bottom of the ninth, Sheffield gripped the bat as tight as Tiger Woods grips his driver. And then he watched strike three settle in the lowest part of the strike zone. He gave the home plate umpire a "What the??" look and shook his head on the way back to the dugout.

It seems quite apparent that Sheffield is trying just a bit too hard to please the Detroit fans, who are much more loving than New York fans. He's hitting a paltry .125 and has just one home run and five RBIs. He needs to call his old teammate. A-Rod could probably help him out (“just relax, just breathe”).

Granted, it's April, which means that in two months Yankees fans will probably be mercilessly booing A-Rod and Sheffield will be batting .290. But for now, A-Rod is as cool as the other side of the pillow, and his hits are finding the other side of the fence. Meanwhile, Sheffield is overly psyched up - as if he's on the Yankees, playing the Red Sox in front of a sellout crowd at Fenway - and he's putting too much pressure on each swing he takes (or doesn't take).

Who knew a movie about a crazed fan could hold some water in real major league ballparks?

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