In N.Y., A-Rod bandwagon could empty in blink of eye

The Baltimore Sun

In the space of three weeks, the prevailing sentiment in the Big Apple toward Alex Rodriguez has gone from "How can we get rid of this guy?" to "How can we make sure he doesn't exercise the out clause in his contract next winter?"

Rodriguez is absolutely unconscious, tying the record for home runs in April with a week to go in the month, and it sure seems like a long time ago when he hit that walk-off grand slam to defeat the Orioles during the first week of the season.

Back then, he was getting intermittently booed and cheered at Yankee Stadium. Now, he is getting his due, though it is important to keep in mind that he could hit 74 regular-season home runs this year and still get trashed if he comes up short in October again.

Of course, the Yankees would have to reach the playoffs for that to happen, which is far from the mortal lock it used to be. Maybe that's why A-Rod looks so relaxed at the plate right now.

A-Rod claims he wants to stay in New York, but here's a prediction: He'll be back playing shortstop next year in Anaheim.

Riding high

Hall of Fame sportswriter Ross Newhan, the father of former Orioles utility man David Newhan, is presiding over a modest sports dynasty. David remains in the major leagues with the New York Mets and Ross has joined a horse racing partnership, which is doing quite well.

His horse, On the Acorn, upset an 8-5 favorite to win the $250,000 San Juan Capistrano Handicap at Santa Anita on Sunday. Ross and his wife, Connie, own one sixth of the horse, which has earned more than $248,000 since it was claimed on Nov. 26. Former major league manager Buck Rodgers and Santa Anita official Jack Disney also are part-owners of the 6-year-old gelding.

Newhan has had a lot of exciting moments - both personal and professional - during nearly a half-century involved in professional sports, but he didn't have any trouble putting this one into perspective when he was interviewed after the race by the San Gabriel Valley News.

"It sure beats trying to talk to Barry Bonds," he said.

Dom gesture

Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter didn't think twice about sending four bottles of Dom Perignon champagne to the Kansas City Royals' clubhouse over the weekend. He wanted to thank them for sweeping the Detroit Tigers late last year, which helped the Twins win the American League Central title.

Now, Major League Baseball has to figure out how to handle a sticky situation that would seem to require that Hunter be suspended for offering a gratuity to an opposing team for services rendered.

The prescribed penalty for offering a reward to another player or team for defeating a competing club, according to Major League Rule 21-b, is a suspension of "not less than three years."

Hunter meant no harm and the Royals quickly agreed to return the gift, so it's doubtful the commissioner's office will take any significant disciplinary action.

The crying game

There may not be any crying in baseball, but basketball apparently is a different story.

Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko, the highest-paid player on the team, broke into tears after practice on Sunday because of his poor performance and diminished role in his team's Game 1 playoff loss to the Houston Rockets.

Kirilenko had just two points and one rebound before being removed in the third quarter of the playoff opener with an apparent ankle sprain. He returned for just seven seconds in the final quarter and spent the practice day seemingly traumatized by the whole affair.

Spare me. If you want a real NBA sob story, how about them Wizards?

Name game

I'm probably the last guy who should be making light of another's odd moniker, but Cleveland Indians first baseman Ryan Garko has been making a name for himself since moving into the starting lineup to replace injured third baseman Andy Marte. Casey Blake moved over to third and Garko has filled in nicely at first, delivering a game-winning home run on Sunday and a go-ahead single in extra innings on Monday night.

If Garko keeps this up, I see a car insurance commercial in his future.

Just a heads-up

Might want to check your Blackberry. You might be starting for the Yankees on Saturday. By then, they'll pretty much have tried everybody else.

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

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