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Yankee Universe belongs to A-Rod today

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I went looking for reactions to Alex Rodriguez' story-like first pitch, first swing three-run home run last night. I found the following blurb in the Hartford Courant, and I think it perfectly summarizes the way a lot of fans felt when that ball landed in the left field seats at Camden Yards.

One swing and everything was back in order. The Yankees had their first lead in six days and all the chaos was forgotten — the two homers off Mariano Rivera Thursday, the leaky bullpen, the losses to the Red Sox, the Mark Teixeira slump. Alex Rodriguez may be a lot of things, but never question his ability to perform on a baseball field.

Let's sample some of the massive volume of stuff written about A-Rod today.

The moment was mesmerizing, Alex Rodriguez launching a 98-mph fastball deep into the night on the very first official pitch he'd seen this season. Above all it was a reminder that his outrageous talent is at the heart of the media circus that surrounds him these days.

Yet when all was said and done, what he said about his stunning return to the Yankees was surely as significant as the three-run bomb itself that set the tone for a 4-0 victory over the Orioles last night.

"The less talking I do, the better," A-Rod said. "I want to let my bat do the talking."

If he is serious about that, if he is done kissing mirrors for Details magazine, done trying to be some wannabe crossover Hollywood celebrity, if he has been stung by taking a fall for steroids, then anything is still possible for A-Rod and the Yankees this season.

He said the steroid revelations, the hip injury and the general dismantling of his life forced him "to look in the mirror." Somewhere on what he called the "long road" from surgery in Colorado, to rehab in Tampa, to renewal in Baltimore, he decided to strip away the extraneous layers in his life that included him keeping the public relations industry afloat in a bad economy. He insisted his posse for this trip was trimmed to just his long-time pal, Gui Socarras, and his brother, Joe. He nearly had the game taken away by cheating and injury, and now says, "I am hungry to play baseball. I have never been hungrier."

This is the right attitude. Everything good in Rodriguez's life starts on the field: Him against the baseball. So, redemption begins there. Does he have the discipline to stick to that plan? His history is not good, his words of promise not often meeting his actions.

Seven-plus months of all tumult and no baseball made A-Rod a dull boy of sorts, a gruesome sideshow more fitting of a Spears sister than a ballplayer. But all it took was one pitch, one 98-mph fastball from Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie, to remind us precisely how much trouble A-Rod is worth: a considerable amount. More than we usually appreciate.

The Yankees waited two months for the curtain to rise, slogging through a forgettable April and an even uglier May. With a 5 1/2 game deficit in the East the empire was in disarray, the fans were largely rejecting the billion-dollar ballpark and the losses were starting to blur into each other.

Finally, Alex Rodriguez arrived, bringing with him the medicine the Yankees have needed all along — that perfect home run swing, unmatched in the universe.

It took just one sequence for the Yankees to officially welcome A-Rod back into the family: one at-bat, one pitch, a single flick of the wrists that tells you everything about the Yankees' vision for the rest of the summer.

Let's hope all the good feelings generated by A-Rod's home run and CC Sabathia's complete-game shutout are the start of a glorious summer. Not just a one-night stand.