As long as Alex Rodriguez has been in New York, he's been a mess. He's been awkward with the media, he's been an occasional jerkface, he's had issues in the clubhouse, and he's been about as media-savvy as a sasquatch confronted with a smartphone. Never has a Yankee been so widely hated, even when he was producing well; once the production dried up and the allegations started, the NewYork papers piled on him like he was one of David Dinkins' last remaining political appointees.
Fast forward to this year, the year he was supposed to crumble up and go away quietly. Instead, he's tearing the cover off the ball, on pace for 40 home runs. He's widely regarded as a good clubhouse presence. He's taken on a leadership role. He's relaxed and even funny in interviews. He is, in short, one of the main reasons the geriatric Yankees are in contention, and he looks like he's having a blast doing it.
So what's different? There's got to be something different about the Yankees these days....oh, right.
So let's put on our NY Yankee-branded tinfoil hats and postulate: Derek Jeter was undoubtedly a master of the media. He ruled the Yankee clubhouse like a mean girl in an early scene in Heathers. He moved the awkwardly accomodating A-Rod off of his best position, and he always made sure no one was ever more beloved than Jeter. Seriously. You can identify each time Jeets threw A-Rod under the bus by the clean and distinct tire tracks.
But now, Jeter's gone. The clubhouse isn't stacked anyone who might be a threat. A-Rod doesn't have to worry about being uncool. He can just play ball. And as he does so, and does so well, suddenly all the other wallflowers decide he's pretty cool after all.
Unlikely? Sure. But it's at least as plausible as the gift basket story.