A-Rod's Wife Makes R-Rated Fashion Statement

Her target may be debated, but the message was clear.

Cynthia Rodriguez, wife of Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez, sat in the Yankee Stadium stands at Sunday's day game wearing a tight-fitting tank top with lettering that read "F*** You" across the back.

Sitting by her side at a stadium full of Yankee fans -- including countless kids -- was the high-profile couple's 2-year-old daughter, Natasha.

The New York Post, claiming a photo exclusive, splashed the story on this morning's cover under the headline "F-Rod."

The R-rated ballpark fashion statement came a little more than a month after the Post ran a cover story during a previous Yankees slump that featured a photo of Rodriguez carousing with an attractive blond-haired woman during a team road trip to Toronto with the suggestive headline "Stray-Rod."

His playmate that night, with whom he visited an upscale strip club, was later identified as Joslyn Noel Morse. Yankee teammate Johnny Damon came to Rodriguez's defense, claiming that Morse was a friend to both Cynthia and Alex Rodriguez.

In the days that followed, some baseball analysts, sportswriters and media critics slammed the Post story and photo spread for going too far, taking a cheap shot at Rodriguez as his team slipped further and further out of playoff contention.

One gambling Web site set the odds of a divorce between the celebrity couple, who were featured in the 2004 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, at 4 to 1.

But Cynthia Rodriguez said nothing, instead appearing in public alongside her husband just days later as the Yankees road trip moved to Boston -- where unrelenting Red Sox fans wore blond-haired masks to goad the superstar.

For her smiling silence, Post columnist Andrea Peyser criticized Cynthia Rodriguez as either a "dimwitted doormat" blind to her husband's philandering or a wife willing to look away from the facts to preserve her marriage and lifestyle.

For its part, the Yankees took off after the controversy, winning 12 of 15 and shaving the Red Sox lead significantly. Post sports columnist Mike Vaccaro suggested the team's "renaissance" could be tied to the tabloid's "Stray-Rod" bombshell.

"We're not saying you should divide the season into the pre-'Stray-Rod' and post-'Stray-Rod' eras," Vaccaro wrote. "We're just saying you could, if you wanted to."

But the Yankees since have cooled, losing 9 of 11 -- including an 11-5 drubbing by the A's yesterday -- and falling to 11 games behind the AL East leading Red Sox.

According to the Post, the steamed parents of some young Yankees fans alerted ballpark security about the vulgar shirt, which may have violated stadium policy.

But Tobe Berkovitz, dean of Boston University's College of Communications, said he very much doubted that the stadium was as "shocked" as the story indicated -- emphasizing the rough-and-tumble reputation of the House That Ruth Built.

By donning the controversial tank top, Berkovitz said, Cynthia Rodriguez very consciously engaged in the tabloid's A-Rod warfare.

"The whole thing is reprehensible and one would hope that she'd have a shred of dignity and class, but it looks like she's playing the tabloid game," Berkovitz said.

"If she didn't want the tabloids to run it," he added, "she wouldn't have worn the shirt."

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