A-Rod defends controversial shout
Yankees third baseman cites frequency of similar plays
TORONTO -- The Yankees' desperation to win a game was so great, Alex Rodriguez reasoned, that he was willing to try anything to make it happen -- even yelling in the direction of an infielder trying to catch a pop fly.
The Blue Jays didn't have quite the same understanding, and by the end of the evening, Rodriguez again found himself in the middle of a heated situation. Rodriguez's verbal interference with Toronto third baseman Howie Clark was a debated side note to the Yankees' 10-5 victory at Rogers Centre on Wednesday.
"I haven't been around that long -- maybe I'm naïve," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "But it's bush league. Everybody in this business, they all look at the Yankees -- they do things right. They play hard. Class operation. That's what the Yanks are known for. That's not Yankee baseball."
In the midst of a five-game losing streak and hoping to avoid being swept in a three-game series by the Blue Jays, Rodriguez had provided a measure of insurance with a run-scoring single in the ninth inning off Toronto reliever Scott Downs.
The Blue Jays turned the pitching over to Brian Wolfe, making his Major League debut, who induced his first batter, Jorge Posada, to hit a sky-high pop to the left side of the infield.
With two outs, Rodriguez was off and running, and as he passed the third baseman Clark, who had his contract purchased earlier in the day from Triple-A Syracuse, Rodriguez made a noise, which Clark said was, "Mine," prompting the infielder to abandon pursuit of the popup.
The ball dropped in for an infield single, scoring Hideki Matsui. Jason Giambi followed with a two-run single to center that extended New York's lead.
"I was just excited running around third base," Rodriguez said. "If you see the video, when the ball bounced, I was past third base. More than anything, I was just surprised."
Asked what he hoped to accomplish on the play, Rodriguez commented once that he didn't know what his intentions were, but also said, "To win a game. We're desperate. We haven't won a game in a little bit now, so we won the game."
While many voices in the Toronto clubhouse said it was the first time they've seen a tactic like that used at the Major League level, Rodriguez insisted the play is not uncommon.
"In a situation like that, that play happens to me three or four times a week, except it's not at third base -- [it's] over by the dugout, foul territory," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. ... I get screamed at all the time on the field."
Toronto shortstop John McDonald and Gibbons both addressed Rodriguez's actions as the All-Star stood at third base, trying to stifle a grin, but A-Rod said he wasn't able to hear what the comments referred to.
He also refuted claims from the Blue Jays clubhouse that said Rodriguez had yelled, "Mine," in Clark's ear, saying that the sound he made was more like, "Ha."
"I couldn't care less -- they have their opinions," Rodriguez said. "We're looking not to be swept. It really didn't make a difference. We won."
Gibbons heatedly argued the call on the field with the umpiring crew, and Yankees manager Joe Torre's reaction to the play was mixed. Torre said that the Yankees' bench "didn't hear anything or see anything," but acknowledged that Rodriguez must have made a noise.
"I don't know what to feel," Torre said. "It's baseball. It's not like he said, 'I got it.' He didn't say that. He just made a noise. When catchers come over to the opposite dugout, everyone's saying, 'I got it, I got it, I got it.'"
The play is the latest in a list of incidents that opponents have found questionable in Rodriguez's career. Most notably, Rodriguez was called out for interference in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox as he tried to slap a ball out of pitcher Bronson Arroyo's glove.
Rodriguez was also questioned by Boston infielder Dustin Pedroia after a May 22 game, claiming that a play in which Rodriguez threw an elbow to break up a double play was "cheap."
As for Wednesday's events, Rodriguez compared the play to Aaron Hill's daring steal of home plate in the previous night's Blue Jays victory, when the second baseman took a walking lead behind pitcher Andy Pettitte's back and slid home safely to give Toronto a lead.
That play made its way onto the nightly highlight reels. Assuredly, so will Rodriguez's.
"Yesterday, they made a great play stealing home," Rodriguez said. "They did some great things yesterday, and I tip my cap to them. It's something that'll be unique, something you don't see every day. Those guys have their opinion, and our guys have ours. I'm fine with that."
Yankees captain Derek Jeter declined to comment on the play, instructing reporters to ask Rodriguez's opinion instead. A few lockers away, Yankees center fielder Johnny Damon smirked, trying unsuccessfully to hide the same type of devious smile Rodriguez had in the ninth inning.
"It worked out great for us," Damon said. "Posada got a base hit and Giambi got to drive in two runs. I thought it was good for our hitters."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.