Yes, he's batting a miniscule .083 in the 2012 playoffs, and comes in at .268 in his eleven appearances in October baseball. But when teammate Raul Ibanez pinch-hit for Rodriguez and went on to hit game-tying and then game-winning home runs against the Orioles on Wednesday, A-Rod was one of the first players out of the dugout to congratulate him.
Kobe Bryant, on the other hand, is recognized as one of the best postseason performers in any sport. Besides his five NBA championships and two Finals MVP awards, his playoff statistics are just as impressive. He's averaged 25.6 points per game when it has mattered most, and he has hit numerous clutch shots over the course of his career. Bryant has also never been shy when it comes to butting heads with teammates or coaches.
Following Rodriguez's benching in Wednesday night's game, Bryant voiced his disagreement with manager Joe Girardi's decision, worrying that the decision would affect the Yankees' team chemistry in a negative manner. (Yes, this is Kobe Bryant we're talking about here, so it's hard to consider him to be a reputable source to talk about team chemistry.)
But while Kobe and Rodriguez might not have comparable playoff resumes, Bryant could in fact take a page from A-Rod's playoff handbook when it comes to dealing with controversy.
On Thursday, a report surfaced of Bryant ripping some of his former teammates, in particular Smush Parker. He called Parker "the worst" of his teammates during the 2005-06 season, when the Lakers were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round.
"I almost won an MVP with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown on my team," Kobe said. "I was shooting 45 times a game. What was I supposed to do? Pass it to Chris Mihm or Kwame Brown?"
In contrast, on Wednesday night, Rodriguez was all smiles after his team's victory in Game 3 of the ALDS. The key word in that sentence, of course, is "team."
Regardless of whether or not he means it, A-Rod accepting his position on the Yankees and serving as an overpaid cheerleader for the three most important innings of the game is noteworthy. In his postgame interview, he acknowledged that he probably wouldn't have acted as positively earlier in his career, but the older, wiser Rodriguez knows that it was best for his team to win.
While Bryant may be right in his criticism of his former teammates, it's still something he should know not to say in the media.
The two "friends" appear to have very different ideas of the concept of team and chemistry. Rodriguez is doing whatever he can for his team to help them advance in the playoffs — well, except for hit — even taking a seat for a 40-year-old guy making a fraction of his salary. Bryant is openly tearing apart former teammates, and hasn't been afraid to badmouth current ones, as he did following the Lakers Game 4 loss against the Thunder in the 2012 playoffs.
A-Rod is receiving criticism from every angle, even getting some from Donald Trump, suggesting he get benched or cut.
Yet statistics be damned, Rodriguez is saying all the right things —
whether he means them or not. Bryant, meanwhile, isn't afraid to speak
his mind, but at a cost of burning nearly every bridge he has with many
past and present teammates.
For the future, Bryant ought to stop worrying about other team's chemistries. After all, he's making enough trouble with his own.