A-Rod says he will call it a career after Friday
As the days and nights went by with his name missing from the lineup as the result of a lack of production (two hits in his past 28 at-bats), Alex Rodriguez took pause at his situation. Then a phone call from Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner came Wednesday that began a negotiating period that led to the event Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium.
At a rare news conference for which nothing had been leaked to a media outlet beforehand, the Yankees and Rodriguez announced that he will play his last major league game at the end of the week. Following Friday night’s game against the Rays, Rodriguez will be unconditionally released by the Yankees from his player contract in order to sign a contract to serve as a special advisor and instructor with the club through Dec. 31, 2017. A-Rod’s player contract was to run through the 2017 season, so the Yankees will pay off the remainder after Friday.
“This is a tough day,” Rodriguez said. “I love this game, and I love this team. Today, I am saying goodbye to both.”
Rodriguez, 41, was overtaken by emotion and openly wept before he could continue. He made the decision after several days of negotiations directly with Steinbrenner. Speculation had increased over the past two weeks as Rodriguez lost designated hitter at-bats to Carlos Beltran, who was later traded, and most recently to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Gary Sanchez.
“The last four weeks have not been fun,” Rodriguez said. “It has been extremely painful and embarrassing being on the bench. I am very excited about Friday.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he would have to talk to Rodriguez about how he might be used in the games prior to Friday that include a three-game series at Boston. A-Rod was not in Sunday’s starting lineup against the Indians. Brian McCann was the DH.
“You always think you have one more hit in you, but I am at peace with it,” Rodriguez said about his decision. “The goal in New York never changes, to work toward winning a championship. Hal recognized that I enjoy working with young players. I am invested in these kids.”
“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain part of our organization moving forward and transition into a role in which we know he can flourish,” Steinbrenner said in a prepared statement. “We have an exciting group of talented young players at every level of our system. Our job as am organization is to utilize every resource possible to allow them to reach their potential, and I expect Alex to contribute directly to their growth and success. Baseball runs through his blood. He’s a tireless worker and an astute student of the game. Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees.”
General manager Brian Cashman recalled several years ago when Rodriguez came back from an injury-rehabilitation stint at Class A Tampa giving a glowing scouting report on Greg Bird, who was lost for the 2016 season because of an injury but who is in the Yankees’ sights as their future first baseman.
“I look forward to his impacting our young players,” Cashman said. “Alex has always been a leader and a mentor.”
“I’ll remember how much he loved the game and gave back to it,” Girardi said. “He has been a teacher forever. Alex has what every person should have — a passion for something. He has had that for baseball.”
Rodriguez thanked his mother and two daughters; friends and other family; managers, coaches and teammates; commissioner Rob Manfred and fans “for letting me enjoy playing this game.”
Cashman, who was very busy at the non-waiver trade deadline with deals involving Beltran, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, said there had been no interest expressed by clubs in Rodriguez, who could still change his mind after the Friday night game and pursue talks with other teams on his own. He made that seem doubtful, however.
“I have not thought past the pinstripes,” Rodriguez said. “My horizon is Friday.”
BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell presents 2007 AL MVP Award to Alex Rodriguez April 2, 2008 at Yankee Stadium
Rodriguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player (2003, ’05, ’07) and 14-time All-Star (1996-98, ’00-08, ‘10-11), ranks fourth on baseball’s all-time list with 696 home runs, including a record 25 grand slams. He is second in major-league history with 2,084 runs batted in (trailing only Hank Aaron’s 2,297), eighth with 2,021 runs scored and 19th with 3,114 hits. Rodriguez has had 14 seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI (1996, ’98-2010), the only big leaguer to accomplish the feat.
Originally acquired Feb. 16, 2004, from the Rangers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named (Joaquin Arias), Rodriguez shifted from shortstop to third base before settling in as the DH last year. In 12 seasons for the Yankees, A-Rod reached postseason play nine times and won the World Series in 2009. During that postseason, he batted .365 with 15 runs, five doubles, six home runs and 18 RBI in 15 games and 52 at-bats and won the Babe Ruth Award from the New York Chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America as the outstanding player of the 2009 postseason.
Displaying his 2009 World Series ring, Cashman said, “We do not have this in our trophy case if not for the significant contributions of Alex Rodriguez.”
A-Rod concurred. He spoke of that World Series victory as his most memorable achievement. Referring to the final out, he said, “Mariano [Rivera] on the mound, Robinson [Cano] throwing the ball to Tex [Mark Teixeira] at first base is something I will never forget.”
In 1,506 career games with the Yankees, Rodriguez has hit .284 with 1,012 runs, 262 doubles, nine triples, 351 home runs, 1,094 RBI, 779 walks, 152 stolen bases, a .378 on-base percentage and a .901 OPS in 5,568 at-bats. On the Yankees’ all-time lists, A-Rod ranks second in grand slams (15), sixth in homers and slugging percentage (.523), seventh in OPS (min: 2,500PA), 10th in runs, 11th in RBI and stolen bases, 12th in walks, 17th in games played and 18th in on-base percentage.
Rodriguez acknowledged that not all of his career was glorious. He was suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating Major League Baseball’s policy against performance enhancing drugs, which has tainted his legacy.
“I want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with baseball, as someone who slipped and fell a lot but still got back up,” Rodriguez said.
He got back up one last time when he hit 33 home runs in 2015, although he tailed off dramatically the final two months of the season. That stretch continued into 2016. Over the calendar year since last August, Rodriguez had batted .198 with 124 strikeouts in 398 at-bats.
As Cashman said, “The game tells you when.”
With Teixeira’s announcement last week that he will retire at season’s end, CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner will be all that remains from the 2009 postseason roster. We are truly seeing the end of an era.