Hit & Run: Red-hot Rod

There is no suggestion," said numerous newspapers and gossip websites yesterday, "that Madonna has to date had a physical relationship with Alex Rodriguez."

Yet it is the physical prowess of this lustiest of baseball sluggers that has been very much to the fore in discussion of a rumoured liaison. "Madonna thinks he's physically a great specimen," one of her "friends" divulged to the Daily Mail yesterday, "and if she is going to have another child, he would be the ideal man to bring one to her."

So who is he, this perfect partner? "A-Rod", as the third baseman for the New York Yankees is known Stateside, was until very recently an unknown outside the few nations that take an interest in baseball. His vital statistics, to fans of the ball game, are mightily impressive: he has scored a remarkable 553 homes runs, more than 2,400 base hits and has an exceptional RBI (runs batted in) rate. All of which probably matters very little to the millions who were yesterday encountering Rodriguez's image for the first time, though they may have noted one stat – with a salary of $28m (£16m), he is baseball's best-paid player.

The British celebrity media have been swotting up on a man who has the potential to generate his own mini-economy, one that lasts well beyond the ninth inning. At Grazia magazine, Michelle Davies, head of news and entertainment coverage, has noticed a pattern in the men being linked with the fitness-obsessed Madonna. "The more physical Madonna has got, the more her men have got bigger," she says, referring to former partner Carlos Leon, a personal trainer, and husband Guy Ritchie, who is a martial-arts expert. "What's struck everyone over here is that he's the epitome of a super-fit sportsman," says Davies.

Over in New York, where Rodriguez, 33, was born before being brought up in Miami by his Dominican parents, Sarah Ivens, the British editor of the US edition of OK! magazine, already knows all about A-Rod. As a Yankees fan, she even owns a T-shirt bearing his image. "He really is the David Beckham of New York," she says.

"He's known for liking the ladies and being quite a party boy. He's a huge sportsman and plays for the sexiest baseball team in America."

Rodriguez's activity on the Manhattan party circuit has not necessarily endeared him to the American public. A-Rod is a father of two daughters and his wife Cynthia, a psychology professor, filed for divorce this summer, alleging infidelity. "The feeling in America is pro-Guy and anti-Madonna," notes Ivens.

Should A-Rod actually start stepping out with Madonna, his value will extend beyond his ability to slug. Potentially, they could become the most famous celebrity couple on earth. "We've seen it in the UK with football and music tie-ups from Billy Wright and the Beverley Sisters right the way through to the fabulous Beckhams," says Alan Edwards, publicist to David Bowie and Naomi Campbell. "There are many instances where the combination of two talents from different fields can create an incredible brand in a space of its own."

This relationship – can we call it "Mad-Rod"? – has the potential to surpass all others – that is, if it even gets past first base.

Ian Burrell

Stealth scrimping is the latest lifestyle trend that's booming as the economy goes bust. Put simply, it involves stealing things – shampoo from hotels, loo rolls from restaurants, pens from work. As someone whose husband cannot resist the lure of CD-marker pens from work, I know the damaging effects of all this. Our house is full of marker pens, unlike the stationery cupboard at his previous employers. After myriad packs had vanished, the company decided that enough was enough and stopped purchasing them. Our home briefly recovered. The he changed jobs. "I never knew they came in blue!" he said, bag bulging, as he returned from work on day-one. The moral of the story: crime doesn't pay. Well, it does, but it has terrible clutter consequences.


Now available at Asda, a replica of Vanessa Hudgens's prom dress from High School Musical 3, for girls aged four to 12. Kelly Hartington was one of a scrum of mums at my local branch yesterday: "It's the one Vanessa's wearing in all the posters. Sixteen quid. Daisy'll go crazy!" The black and white floral number has been slightly tweaked - Vanessa's is strapless, but then she is 20, and Daisy is six. The supermarket has a waiting list of 20,000 pre-orders – a phenomenon normally seen at a launch of the latest Chanel handbag. Disney, creator of HM3, has changed the dressing-up game. Next new phenomenon for four-year-olds: bumping into someone at a social event who's wearing the same outfit as you. There will be tears before bedtime.

Harriet Walker

On my car windscreen one morning was a printed notice, on which some bushy-tailed greenie had put a helpful suggestion: "Maybe you should rethink your vehicle choice." Did this fill me with shame? No, it filled me with rage, and here's why. The eco-zealot had noted that my car is big – a Volvo estate. What they had not taken into account was that it is as old as the hills. I've had it for 12 years, and its history extends further back.

Once or twice a week I fire up this tank-like Swedish motor and amble a mile or two to ferry children. If I were to trade it in for a low-mpg runaround, my windscreen would be preach-free, but it wouldn't do the planet any good. The best estimates say the extra fuel consumed by a large, hungry old car is still less of a burden on the planet than the resources needed to make a new one.

And now, here's more counterintuitive green news. A study shows that disposable nappies may be a greener choice than reusables. Two-and-a-half years of reusables produces 570kg of CO2 – and that's without tumble drying. For disposables, the figure is 550kg. For reusables to be greener, parents would have to wash them at 60C or less, hang them out to dry all year round and pass them on to younger siblings.

And this: dishwashers use less water, power and detergent than washing up by hand, a University of Bonn study found. It's all good news for anyone who hates car salesmen, isn't so keen on the scatological and can't be bothered to scrub dishes.

Louisa Saunders

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