The Yankees have the best record in the American League and clinched their ninth consecutive AL East division title Wednesday night. This doesn't make them one big happy family, however.
In a story in this week's Sports Illustrated, Alex Rodriguez is portrayed as a loner on the AL's best team, whose struggles prompted Jason Giambi to urge manager Joe Torre to get tough with Rodriguez. Rodriguez's current statistics are gaudy -- .286, 34 home runs and 116 RBI -- but the slugging third baseman has been perceived by the fans and media as unable to get the big hit when the Yankees need it.
Giambi is quoted in the article as saying Rodriguez has a
"false confidence" and that Torre should "stop coddling him."
In an exchange between Giambi and Rodriguez recounted in the magazine, the Yankees' first baseman challenged the slumping third baseman to step up his play.
Before approaching Torre, Giambi said he talked to Rodriguez while the Yankees were playing in Boston.
"[Mike] Mussina doesn't get hammered at all. He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team ..."
-- Alex Rodriguez in this week's SI
"We're all rooting for you and we're behind you 100 percent, but you've got to get the big hit," was his message to A-Rod, Giambi told SI.
"What do you mean?" was Rodriguez's response, Giambi told SI. "I've had five hits in Boston."
"You [expletive] call those hits?" Giambi said, according to SI. "You had two [expletive] dinkers to right field and a ball that bounced over the third baseman! Look at how many pitches you missed!
"When you hit three, four or five [in the order], you have to get the big hits, especially if they're going to walk Bobby [Abreu] and me. I'll help you out until you get going. I'll look to drive in runs when they pitch around me, go after that 3-and-1 pitch that might be a ball. But if they're going to walk Bobby and me, you're going to have to be the guy."
Rodriguez told the magazine that he didn't recall the exchange, but said "I'm sure we had a conversation."
Torre then had a closed-door meeting with Rodriguez in August in Seattle.
Giambi told ESPN before Wednesday's game that he meant the comments to be helpful, to help pick Rodriguez up. Rodriguez on Wednesday told ESPN that nothing in the SI report was inaccurate.
Also, in trying to defend himself against fan and media criticism, Rodriguez brought other players' names into the conversation, which could threaten to fracture the Yankees' clubhouse.
"[Mike] Mussina doesn't get hammered at all," he told SI. "He's making a boatload of money. Giambi's making [$20.4 million], which is fine and dandy, but it seems those guys get a pass. When people write [bad things] about me, I don't know if it's [because] I'm good-looking, I'm biracial, I make the most money, I play on the most popular team ..."
While Giambi personally confronted A-Rod on his struggles, other players had their own guesses as to the cause.
"I think he ought to get his eyes checked," one teammate told SI. "I'm not kidding. I don't think he's seeing the ball."
And another: "I honestly think he might be afraid of the ball."
Before Tuesday night's game in Toronto, Rodriguez, Giambi and Torre were asked
about the SI article that portrayed the team as
being critical with the way Rodriguez handled his struggles this
Giambi and Rodriguez both downplayed the negatives on Tuesday.
"I found an enormous amount of support from my teammates,"
Torre acknowledged meeting with Rodriguez in Seattle in August
and telling him to change his demeanor.
"The tone I took to Alex is basically being honest with
himself. And what I meant by that was, he had a tough series in
Boston ... and I like to watch body language, he was making it
appear like it was OK," Torre said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.