We can analyze his character to death, speculate about his relationship with Jeter and the rest of the team, and condemn his use of performance enhancing whatevers, but the reality, circa 2009, is that Mr. Rodriguez went and got himself a heaping batch of clutch.
Yeah, the whole thing is pending his playoff performance, but even the regular season progress signifies something. All year, he's demonstrated a keen sense of the big moment. Well, actually, he's always demonstrated that keen sense; it's just that before now, his response was a wilting one. He psyched himself out. Now he gets the big hit. What changed?
Totally impossible to know. One theory is that the PED business was such a disaster, damaging the Jeter-esque image he craved so badly, that it jarred A-Rod into a second level of reality, one where certain things started to matter less. Things like public perception, legacy, and intra-team status. Maybe things got so overwhelming that the evolutionary impulse kicked in, and he jettisoned the stressful elements. And a looser clubhouse atmosphere, courtesy of Swisher, AJ, Nady, and Melky, can't hurt.
But we can't know for sure, and again, to truly rid himself of the choke lable, he has to prove something in the post-season. But now he'll have his chance, and uniquely enough, I believe in him.
By the way, the CC Sabathia Cy Young campaign is going beautifully. 16 wins, still leading the league, and he's now 6th in ERA if you don't count Cliff Lee. If he can leap-frog Verlander to land in the top 5, and be the only AL pitcher with 20 wins, I think we can woo the voters. Beckett is out of the discussion, having slipped irreparably the last few starts, and I only place four guys ahead of Big Charles.
To look at it seriously for a second, I do think there's a chance CC ends up with the award. It would take a miracle finish, something like 5-6 more wins and a final ERA around 3.1 (currently 3.48), but crazier things have happened and he's been known to have strong Septembers in the past. Should be exciting.