NEW YORK -- There are worse things than being the Yankees' third baseman in an ALCS between New York and Boston.
Last year, Aaron Boone was the hero for the Bronx Bombers, sending them to the World Series with his 11th-inning walk-off home run against Boston's Tim Wakefield. Just three months later, Boone tore up his knee while playing basketball, an incident which led to the eventual arrival of Alex Rodriguez in New York.
Now it's A-Rod's turn.
Rodriguez will be at the hot corner for the Yankees on Tuesday night when the ALCS kicks off at Yankee Stadium, though he could have just as easily been playing for the Red Sox had their deal for the reigning AL MVP been completed in December.
"It was very close," Rodriguez said. "I remember being very disappointed when it didn't happen, but it also feels like it was five or 10 years ago."
Instead, A-Rod was dealt to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano, and the rest is history.
Alex Rodriguez / 3B
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
"It was a huge blessing in disguise," Rodriguez said. "I was disappointed, but never in my wildest dreams did I think that a month or two later, I'd be wearing pinstripes."
Although Sox fans are hardly lamenting the status of their team without A-Rod -- after all, they would have lost MVP candidate Manny Ramirez in the deal -- Rodriguez thinks that last winter's events will only add to the intensity of the ALCS.
"Any log you throw into the fire is going to add to this rivalry," he said. "Me almost going there, then coming here, it adds a little juice to it."
Rodriguez hit .286 with 36 home runs and 106 RBIs for New York this year, numbers far below his expectations, but he came through in a big way in the Division Series, batting .421 in four games against the Twins.
Rodriguez drove in the game-tying run in New York's Game 2 comeback, then single-handedly manufactured the winning run in the Game 4 clincher.
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
at New York
NYY 10, BOS 7
at New York
NYY 3, BOS 1
at New York
at New York
* If necessary
"We certainly needed him to be that for us," said manager Joe Torre. "Sandwiched between Derek [Jeter] and Gary [Sheffield], he can make so many things happen, because he possesses so much ability in every aspect of the game."
With 19 regular-season meetings behind them, the Yankees and Red Sox know each other intimately. A-Rod went through the highs and lows of the rivalry, going 1-for-17 in the first four-game series at Fenway, sparking a bench-clearing incident in another game in Boston and collecting a game-winning hit off the Green Monster in yet another.
"It's exciting," Rodriguez said. "I've had fun all year, but this is the most fun part of the year. I was watching very closely last year as a fan of the game. I'm going to have a lot more fun playing in it."
A-Rod doesn't plan on visiting Babe Ruth's monument in the outfield before the series. "Not yet, he said. "I'm waiting for that."
But he knows that it will take a big performance by his team to advance past the rival Sox, who swept the Angels in the first round.
"We're going to take it one game at a time," he said. "We can't get caught up too much in 1918 or anything like that. We're focused on Game 1 and Curt Schilling."
So, does Rodriguez think that the next week or so will bring him a moment quite like Boone's? When asked by a reporter whether being the Yankees' third baseman means that he is due for a Game 7 walk-off homer, Rodriguez smiled.
"That would be nice," he said. "I hope you're a prophet."
Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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