Winner of the Week: Alex Rodriguez

The Yankees slugger has improbably won back the heart of New York City. 
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The Yankees slugger has improbably won back the heart of New York City. 
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A year ago there was no one who inspired as much disgust in the sporting world as Alex Rodriguez, the disgraced Yankees slugger who was serving a season-long suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs (and lying about it). According to multiple supposed experts, this year was going to be another dark one for Rodriguez, as without the drugs, his body would fail him, and the Yankees would sink to the bottom of the standings, with Rodriguez the albatross around their neck. 

But that's not what has happened at all. Thanks to a home run by A-Rod last night, the Yankees were able to beat the Orioles by a run. On top of that, they were able to widen their lead in the American League East. On top of that, the home run was A-Rod's 601st, moving Rodriguez past Willie Mays on the all-time home run list, and proving that not only does A-Rod still have it, but that he might be able to lead these Yankees deep into the playoffs. 

The Yankees have been in a weird situation with Rodriguez. After he publicly feuded with the organization, the team is now counting on him to keep their team in first. While his contract has certain rewards for A-Rod breaking home run records (he was promised $6 million for breaking Mays's mark), the Yankees have refused to acknowledge this part of the contract, claiming that A-Rod's steroid use has destroyed their ability to market his accomplishment. So far, the Yankees have been silent about his achievements. Well, with the exception of a remarkably brief scoreboard display.

This sets up a confrontation where A-Rod undeniably has the upper hand. He's hitting home runs and helping the team win. The fans are once again in his corner and he's saying all the right things for once. The Yankees might actually owe him money, and he has the right to collect it. Given how anemic the Yankees offense was last year, if an extra $6 million (which is chump change to the Yankees) ends up heading A-Rod's way, who would really be upset? Even the player's union, which put up a timid  fight against A-Rod's year-long suspension, is ready to go to war on behalf of his bonus.

In just a few short weeks, A-Rod has changed his entire image. And all he had to do was what he does best—hit home runs. And that's why he's the winner of the week. 

Photos by Al Bello/Getty Images