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A-Rod is the antidote to Barryball

It was like catching a PGA Tour event with Tiger Woods in the field. Only he doesn't get the "W."

It was like watching a Roger Federer lose a tennis tournament to somebody you never heard of (which is most everyone else).

Strange as it seems I turned on the Yankees-Red Sox game Saturday and -- brace yourselves -- Alex Rodriguez never homered. Delivered nothing better than a double. Drove in all of one stinking run.

Just my luck. The guy dings 12 in his first 62 at-bats, putting him on pace to homer like 100 times, and what happens when I try to get in on a piece of the visual action? A-Rod goes into A-Slump.

Don't give me, "Wait a minute. He went 2 for 4." I'm supposed to be giddy that he raised his average to .371? You think he's getting $250 mil over 10 years to make a push for .400 with a double here, a double there? If that's the case Tony Gwynn comes out of retirement and buys Dubai with cash.

A-Rod gets the big bucks because he is D-Bomb. At least from April through September. Which to Yankees fans amounts to the most meaningless six months of the season.

In the Bronx they're generally unmoved that the A-Man might be The Hitter of his generation, at least among the unsullied, or those free from suspicion of taint. You know what I think when I peruse A-Rod's career numbers? (Here's a hint: I can't believe I'm going to write this).

It just could be that considering the marketplace, given that the L.A. Angels last winter dumped 50 really-big on an unworthy Gary Mathews Jr., the best Yankee that Yankees fans have never warmed to is actually U-Pa.

That's right. Underpaid.

What do you mean, no way? We're talking a career average of .306, and 476 homers and almost 1,400 RBIs for someone all of 31 and less than a month into his 12th full season. A-Rod hasn't homered fewer than 35 times since 1997. He hasn't driven in fewer than 100 runs since 1995. He's the guy you write in pen on the lineup card with 161 carbon-covered lineup cards underneath and pray he never ails.

A-Rod's Ruthian start couldn't come at a better time for baseball, which is unsure how much homage it should pay Barry Bonds in his quest to become baseball's all-time home run king. Unless he can prove otherwise, Bonds will be forever haunted by steroid suspicions.

It doesn't help his cause that Bonds has about three friends on the planet . . . if you count his mother twice. It doesn't get him much slack that he's as embraceable as a rabid porcupine, disdainful of all those who reside outside his clique. You have to admit, it's a bit of a public relations disaster when perhaps the most widely disliked player in the game draws near the game's preeminent career standard.

That's where A-Rod comes in. If the Yanks third baseman keeps up this monster year he'll divert attention from Bonds' pursuit and water the seeds of expectation among fans who can't stomach the thought of Hammerin' Hank being unseated by Barry. So what if Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's record? Someday A-Rod will pass him anyway.

If A-Rod continues piling up the RBIs he's destined to set foot where no man's ventured since Manny Ramirez drove in 165 in 1999. He could become the first player since 1938 (Jimmie Foxx) to drive in more than 170. He just might take a run at Hack Wilson's record 191, on the books since 1930. Like it's not possible given what's in front of and behind A-Rod in the batting order?

Of course, I'd have to see it to believe it.

e-mail: bdicesare@buffnews.com

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