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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

Alex Rodriguez return would be A-OK

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez tips his cap

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez tips his cap to fans for the final time as a Yankee player New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi looks on after an MLB baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

At 1 p.m. Monday, Alex Rodriguez officially cleared release waivers. By 1:01, we figured the Marlins would have his No. 13 ready in, well, whatever you call that dizzying array of neon-inspired hues they’re wearing down in South Beach.

Instead, there was a different announcement, and this one came in a text from A-Rod’s publicist, Ron Berkowitz. Just as the Marlins’ chatter was heating up, Berkowitz arrived with a bucket of ice water to extinguish any hope of seeing Rodriguez continue his chase of Babe Ruth in the coming weeks.

“I want to put all this talk to rest about Alex playing for any team this season,” Berkowitz said in the statement. “It’s not happening. Like he said Friday night, he is happy and he is going to take some time to relax and hang with his family and friends.”

Cue the sad trombone.

Whether you wanted A-Rod off the Yankees or not, there’s no denying that having him out of baseball for the rest of this season is a major buzz kill. And how are we supposed to go cold turkey after living off his drama for as far back as we can remember?

Admittedly, these are all selfish reasons. We just didn’t think he was ready for a sabbatical himself. The Yankees, in nudging him toward the door, planted Rodriguez on the bench for most of the past month, an experience he called “awkward” and “embarrassing.” Not only that, but they were complicit in leaving him stuck on 696 homers.

That’s a huge helping of pride to swallow. And if there was anything motivating Rodriguez to immediately suit up for another club, it would be the Yankees’ brush-off. Between Joe Girardi’s benchings, A-Rod repeatedly said he still could play, even if no one in the team’s hierarchy believed him. So why not make the Yankees look bad by swatting a few more homers for someone else?

Great question. While Rodriguez was careful not to use the word “retirement” in any of his mass-media interactions, the Yankees did give him reason to at least push the pause button with Friday’s emotional farewell in the Bronx. All week, he gave us the impression he couldn’t wait to suit up somewhere else. To be cut loose was humiliating enough. But with two months left in the season? That was some serious knife-twisting.

The situation worsened when Girardi immediately went back on his word to play him every day at Fenway. Once Friday arrived, the pregame ceremony also was less than ideal as a freak thunderstorm soaked A-Rod, his family and Hal Steinbrenner, who hastily presented him a few gifts before everyone had to rush off the field.

But what happened afterward, once those clouds parted, might have been a factor in convincing Rodriguez to stay home for the next six weeks. The rest of that night was an A-Rod-palooza, a three-hour lovefest between the player and the 46,459 fans who cheered his every move.

Few players, Cooperstown-bound or not, get that type of send-off. And for someone like Rodriguez, the game’s most notorious PED villain, it must have had a fairy-tale feel. Might that retire him permanently?

“It’s possible that it did,” Girardi said Monday. “And maybe he wants to hold on to that. It’s hard for me to predict. Maybe he wants to sit and wait a couple months to see how he feels and where he’s at mentally. But I know how much he loves the game and I know how much he loves to compete. So nothing is going to surprise me.”

Berkowitz made no comment about 2017, so as far as we’re concerned, that’s still on the table. Here’s hoping that A-Rod isn’t prepared to call it quits for good, because we’re not ready for that, either.


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