Photo by Adam Hunger/AP
By Rich Mancuso
Alex Rodriguez was emotional Sunday morning in the press conference room at Yankee Stadium. GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi followed and were grateful for his 12-years in pinstripes, one that was complicated and never lacked in drama.
Next Friday the saga ends in the Bronx. This Alex Rodriguez era, at least in pinstripes comes to a conclusion and it is not difficult to understand what transpired here. It was never a marriage and more of an affair with the Yankees.
Blame the steroid era as a reason this born to be baseball star, Alex Rodriguez became the most controversial individual who needed the supplements to put him in the annals with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, and other greats who played the game without the use of body enhancement supplements.
In essence, as much as one can realize the accomplishments, Alex Rodriguez may be at peace but was always a fraud because he played the game of baseball as the cheater and not the player.
Hal Steinbrenner was not there, and it was A-Rod and the Yankees boss who came to an agreement that puts a conclusion to a 22-year playing career and a never ending saga in the Bronx. It will be different when A-Rod joins management in spring training next year in a player development role.
And it was always about how much Alex Rodriguez, as he said, “Loved the game,” and like a marriage it worked to his advantage, that is until A-Rod decided, as was his admission later on to not play the game the right way.
So, now, with a playing career supposedly coming to an end, next Friday night in the Bronx when the Yankees welcome Tampa Bay, A-Rod will play in his last game.
“We’ll talk to him and see how he wants to end here,” said Girardi about the next few and final days of Alex Rodriguez as an active player in Yankees pinstripes. That will no longer be an issue for Girardi as to why or when Alex Rodriguez will be in the lineup again.
But Girardi did say, “ He has the right to change his mind.” Meaning, if A-Rod gets home and says that his mind has changed about getting that 700th home run, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. This is hard for any athlete.”
Consider that this legacy will not end the way it should, and whether it be good or bad with four home runs shy of 700, Alex Rodriguez will not be a part of Yankees history in that elite club. The 700 home run club in the Bronx still belongs to “The Babe” from another time and era.
Did the Yankees put an end to the A-Rod era before 700, or was his exit the continued revamping of a roster that is getting younger, more so that needed to get younger?
And is the the end for real? There was no word of retirement, instead the world heard was, the Yankees gave Alex Rodriguez a release from the remaining, of what at the time was the biggest contract in sports and for a baseball player.
This was a marriage that was meant to be in the Bronx, perhaps never meant to be. And now, with the final few days at hand, how does the baseball world and the New York Yankees say this so-called goodbye to who many call, one of the all-time greats who played the game?
Cashman said about the career of A-Rod, “Exciting. One with ups and downs but always got back up.” And the Yankees became the team that had the ups and downs with their star player. There were the threats of lawsuits, the courtrooms and breach of contract.
The year long suspension from steroid abuse became a distant memory last year. Alex Rodriguez had a comeback year, he played the game and went with the plan. And for the most part this season, even with limited or no playing time, you never heard A-Rod say the wrong thing.
In the end, even in the Bronx on Sunday morning, he was again the team player and handled it the right way,
But had Alex Rodriguez played the game the right way with the Yankees, and for most of his career there would be more talk of joining an elite 700 home run club.. There would be talk of him being a legitimate and great all-time New York Yankee.
However it did not work out that way and in a few more days, and perhaps with a couple of more appearances at the plate, the final legacy of Alex Rodriguez will be determined.
Rodriguez said with emotion, he was grateful to take on another opportunity with the Yankees. “Sure, of course, I can still play baseball,”he said. It was a tough day he said and a proud day, and he never thought that a career would span for 22-years.
And if he indeed does play again, it won’t be with the Yankees but mentoring the youngsters that are ahead opens up a new chapter. Saying goodbye he said is hard to do, but how much will baseball miss Alex Rodriguez remains to be seen.
As for the game Sunday afternoon, the Yankees since this trading away of Chapman, Miller, Nova and Beltran, and with the retirement announcement of Mark Teixeira, finished the homestand at 3-2 and went 5-2 in the season series over the central division leading Cleveland Indians with their 3-2 win.
Teammates of A-Rod were not in the know about the developments Sunday and the Yankees did their best to keep a hush on Rodriguez and his future. One of his close colleagues, Brett Gardner was content that A-Rod won a World Series with him in 2009, the lone championship that Rodriguez has.
“I feel like I’ve always been a big fan of him,” Brett Gardner said. “Always loved watching him work, whether it’s in the cage or behind the scenes in the weight room or out on the field during batting practice.. So nothing he’s ever done surprises me.”
Gardner added, the three time American League MVP and 14-time all star can still hit the ball. He saw how A-Rod was hitting the ball over the fence with authority during batting practice at Citi Field this week before the Mets-Yankees series.
But, the past month there was limited playing time, if any, for Rodriguez who had most of his swings in the cages of runways at Yankee Stadium and other ballparks and he had a difficult time handling a fastball. It became obvious, the Yankees wanted to get younger and an aging Alex Rodriguez, who will get his $27 million as an adviser was not in the plans.
Maybe with A-Rod now out of the picture, and with this revamped roster, the Yankees have this feel for the youth movement that is coming to the Bronx. It was not working the way it was, though winning more games at this juncture does not matter.
The Yankees feel they are still in the race for a wild card, and a five game deficit to them is not out of the question of doing something with 51 games remaining.
A-Rod was not in the clubhouse after their win and Girardi was going to speak with his soon to be released player. The roster will add another player after next Friday to replace A-Rod who will go home to Miami and be with his two daughters, and if another team wants him, the Yankees will grant permission though there don’t expect to be any takers.
He said the last month of not playing and producing was “painful and embarrassing.” And for the first time, we all saw an Alex Rodriguez telling the truth about how much the Yankees and the game meant to him.
However, it was more embarrassing for the Yankees and all his colleagues who played the game without cheating, even though skeptics say that a majority of players were doing what A-Rod did during the steroid era and were never implicated.
But, there is something remaining that has to be accomplished. Four more home run but don’t count on that happening in Yankees pinstripes.