On field and at home, A-Rod is happy
Hollywood romance has third baseman relaxed for postseason
Josh Rothleder is a longtime Yankees fan in East Northport, N.Y., who also happens to be a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan.
He remembers what happened to Tony Romo after the Cowboys quarterback started dating pop singer and actress Jessica Simpson.
"She took so much heat," Rothleder, 36, said in an e-mail Wednesday to MLB.com. "I, like everybody else, was like 'Dump her!' once he started going south. The media frenzy about [Romo's] whole trip to Cabo was ridiculous. If he had gone with a nobody, we wouldn't have heard a peep."
Ah, but Kate and Alex, that's another love story.
Yankee fans like Rothleder are happy to have movie star Kate Hudson around the Major League Baseball scene, especially as long as her boyfriend, Alex Rodriguez, bats .455 (5-for-11) with two homers (including a ninth-inning jack off All-Star closer Joe Nathan) and six RBIs in an American League Division Series sweep of the Twins.
They are happy to have Kate around, especially as long as Rodriguez continues this blissful bloom of a postseason. The Yankees open the best-of-seven AL Championship Series against the Angels at 7:57 p.m. ET Friday at home, and if he reaches his first World Series, that one would start Oct. 28 at Yankee Stadium, presumably with Kate rooting there as usual.
"I feel great," Rodriguez said. "Not only with the game but in my life. ... I'm in a place in my life -- professionally and personally -- that I want to hang on to."
All's fair in love and sports, and this is a time-honored issue that sometimes works out and sometimes goes all Romo-and-Simpson. Lamar Odom of the Lakers just married Khloe Kardashian, whose sister Kim is married to Saints star Reggie Bush, who will be playing a Monday Night Football game at home the same night (Nov. 2) that Rodriguez may or may not be playing Game 5 of his first-ever World Series.
So far, Rodriguez and Hudson have a feel-good vibe kind of like that of Tony Parker and Eva Longoria. They have been surrounded by good buzz, from NBA titles to "Desperate Housewives" hit ratings. They seem happy. Maybe the biggest power couple in sports other than A-Hud now is Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bundchen, whose townhouse on Barrow Street in Manhattan reportedly was one of those Kate and Alex checked out amid recent househunting.
Nomar Garciaparra met Mia Hamm while he was still a shortstop with the Red Sox, and they remain happily married. Chuck Finley, the former Angels pitcher, did not get the best results from his relationship with actress Tawny Kitaen; she was accused of beating him with a stiletto heel. David Justice and Halle Berry were an item for a short while back in his heyday with the Braves, and after they split up she went on to win an Oscar for her role in "Monster's Ball."
Heidi Hamels, a past star of the TV show "Survivor," just gave birth last Friday to Caleb, son of Cole, who starts the Phillies' opener Thursday at Dodger Stadium in the National League Championship Series. That celebrity pairing has worked well so far. Carmen Electra's wedding to former NBA player Dennis Rodman, not so much. She is married now to rocker Dave Navarro. This season began with the news that Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was engaged to briefcase model No. 26 Lindsay Clubine of "Deal Or No Deal" -- and for New England fans the jury will be out on that one the way it still is out for Brady-Bundchen.
Certainly A-Hud is not the only notable power couple within the Yankees world. Derek Jeter has dated various newsmakers, like Mariah Carey, Jessica Biel and his present girlfriend, Minka Kelly of "Friday Night Lights" fame. Nick Swisher is seeing Joanna Garcia from "Gossip Girl."
Some couples can handle the brightest of all limelight; some cannot.
Kate Hudson is a Hot Topic on the New York Post Web site, and not for her own acting career. She made numerous trips with the Yankees this season, and it seemed as if she was in just about every city after the All-Star break. They turned heads together during the ALDS in Minneapolis, going to the movies together and spotted drinking Starbucks. They also went for coffee in Seattle and had lunch together with the kids in the Pike Place Market.
In the course of a year, Rodriguez went through major tabloid scandal over a stripper incident in Toronto; then the divorce from his wife, Cynthia; followed by revelations about pre-2004 performance-enhancing-drug use; and then his high-profile news conference at the start of the Yankees' Spring Training in Florida. Rodriguez then missed more than a month of the season because of hip surgery -- and yet he finished with 30 homers and 100 RBIs, a big final chunk coming in the final day's record inning, when he clouted a three-run homer and then a grand slam to put an exclamation mark on his own personal comeback.
It may be noted that Rodriguez also had a huge ALDS performance in 2004 against the Twins, followed by a long road of postseason travails. The low point probably was against Detroit in the 2006 ALDS, when he went 1-for-14 and was shockingly dropped to eighth in the vaunted Yankee lineup by then-manager Joe Torre. Whether Rodriguez goes on to his first World Series remains to be seen -- but insiders say Hudson has been an important part of his support system in changing the story from his steroids admission in February.
"I think it's fair to say that I hit rock bottom this spring," said Rodriguez, so far still not discussing Hudson specifically. "Between the embarrassment of the press conference and my career being threatened with my hip injury, and the unknown of not knowing when I was coming back, I think my life and my career was at a crossroads. I was either going to stay at the bottom, or I was going to bounce back.
"When you take expectations away, you actually focus on the game, putting on the uniform and catching a ground ball. That's what I've been doing all year, and that's what I want to keep doing in October."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rodriguez: "I think he reflected a lot when he went through his injury, and he came back to help us get to the playoffs. I think he's had a great year. Physically, mentally, I think he's in a great place."
Yankee fans want him to stay right in that place, and if that means Hudson is a part of it, then she is as welcome as anyone. Hudson often sits down by third base at Yankee Stadium.
"We love her!" Laura Posada, Jorge's wife, told the Post in August. "She doesn't act like a superstar. She's on the field, she's in the family room, she's really becoming part of the group. They're happy, and it shows in the way he's playing. I think it's great."
Amber Sabathia, CC's wife, added: "She's a great girl. She's supercool."
Now you hear Yankee fans saying pretty much the same thing. As long as Rodriguez is happy and helping the team toward a possible 27th world championship, she is definitely "supercool." Of course, there is a lesson perhaps to be learned from what happened to that other megafranchise in Dallas, one that says fans pay close attention to player's lives.
Just ask Rothleder, the Yankees and Cowboys fan who is now wondering what might be the cause of Romo's latest scuffling on the field.
"It is probably just coincidence, but Alex Rodriguez seems more relaxed so far in the playoffs, and maybe it has something to do with his relationship with Kate Hudson," Rothleder said. "He has been such a great player in the regular season, but the last few postseasons he has been awful. This year he is off to a great start and maybe it has to do with her. Of course, it is getting a little sickening seeing her every time he does something good, but what can you do? I'm sure having [Mark] Texeira in the lineup does not hurt either."
"Honestly, it is all about being relaxed, and I think A-Rod was just trying too hard. ... He had to deal with so many things over his years here, and he finally seems to be in a better place."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.