For those bored with the usual Sunday morning political fare, Alex Rod riguez’s teary goodbye, carried live by at least two networks, was an entertaining made-for-TV special.
It’s extremely rare when a player of A-Rod’s pedigree, a few big swings short of Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, turns on the waterworks, with the rest of the Yankees watching from the back rows. As YES pregame shows go, this was Hall of Fame material.
And for what? The Yankees basically telling A-Rod to get lost.
This was a bitter, inevitable divorce spun as a conscious uncoupling. Not only does Rod riguez collect every nickel of his $27 million, but the Yankees also agreed to throw him a going-away party Friday in the Bronx against the Rays (good seats still available).
Get this: The Yankees, in their great benevolence, even promised him a few at-bats that night. Imagine that. Rodriguez, a three-time MVP and owner of 696 home runs, actually is penciled in to play.
So after humiliating A-Rod for the past month by gluing him to the bench, a situation he described Sunday as “painful,” “embarrassing” and “awkward,” the Yankees dressed up the ultimate smackdown — his unconditional release — as merely the next phase of his pinstriped legacy, transitioning to an instructor and special adviser to Hal Steinbrenner.
Sounds nice, but we’re not convinced that Rodriguez is ready to walk through that door just yet. Steinbrenner took a page from his dad’s playbook by offering him another job in the organization, and Rod riguez, between tears, gushed with appreciation. But this wasn’t the A-Rod we’ve chronicled all these turbulent years, the defiant, soiled superstar who returned from a season-long Biogenesis suspension to hit 33 home runs in the season in which he turned 40.
After Friday, Rodriguez will be a free man, available to sign with another team if he chooses. He didn’t sound 100 percent ready to call it quits. Unlike Teixeira, who retired on his own terms Friday, A-Rod was jettisoned by the Yankees. They just were kind enough to offer him a pinstriped parachute.
“I think I can still play baseball,” Rodriguez said. “You always think you have one more hit in you, to help the team win one more game, for sure. That wasn’t in the cards. That was the Yankees’ decision, and I’m at peace with it.”
A-Rod must have said “it wasn’t in the cards” a half-dozen times, but he was referring to the Bronx, under Steinbrenner’s rule. That doesn’t mean he can’t continue his pursuit of Ruth (714 homers) elsewhere after a full winter to rest up, get in the best shape of his life and become a DH-for-Hire, as well as a virtually free attendance magnet.
Rodriguez loves a circus, as long as he’s the ringleader. So how could he possibly forgo the opportunity to stir things up all over again, at another team’s spring campus, next February? If the options are that or hitting fungoes to Gleyber Torres, we have a feeling A-Rod picks Door No. 1. The Yankees probably do, too.
“If he changes his mind, if somebody called him and said hey, can you get it going and crank it up, then he would have a decision,” Cashman said. “And I don’t think anybody in here would stand in his way.”
They can’t. All that’s left for the Yankees to do now is write A-Rod an enormous check, throw him a few bones, er, at-bats, and hope he doesn’t hurdle Ruth in a Rays uniform on their dime.
Steinbrenner’s gambit worked. He broke Rodriguez by issuing the executive order to chain him to the bench for the past month.
Ultimately, it was A-Rod’s pride that did him in, not the sudden evaporation of his unique talents. Both Cashman and Rodriguez framed the endgame with Steinbrenner as amicable discussions, but we’re not so sure. This was the week Hal settled all family business, and dumping A-Rod was the non-negotiable exclamation point.
“A lot has happened the last 72 hours,” Rodriguez said. “When Hal told me [on Wednesday], I just told him, give me a few days, I need to think on this, sleep on it. I have not thought past the pinstripes and my horizon is Friday.”
Even with A-Rod down to his final four games, Joe Girardi still wouldn’t pledge him any playing time at Fenway Park, where Rodriguez could take repeated shots at the Green Monster in a last-ditch effort to reach No. 700. After a 22-year career, including a dozen with the Yankees, Rod riguez is left begging over this last week.
The last time A-Rod came off this vulnerable was the Biogenesis suspension, and it took every ounce of MLB’s punitive might to drop that hammer. The Yankees bruised him again Sunday, but A-Rod’s ego always has been too big to fail.
“I do want to be remembered as someone who was madly in love with the game of baseball,” he said. “And also, I want to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot. But someone that kept getting up.”
After Friday, his future no longer will involve playing for the Yankees. But A-Rod sounds far from finished, wherever that may be.
351 Home Runs
7 All-Star Games
0 Gold Gloves
2 MVP Awards
696 Home Runs
14 All-Star Games
2 Gold Gloves
3 MVP Awards
Best season: 2007: 54 HRs, 156 RBIs, .314 BA, .422 OBP, .645 SLG, 1.067 OPS
2016 season: .204 BA, .252 OBP, .356 SLG, .609 OPS, 9 HRs, 29 RBIs in 62 games
HR 6th (351)
Runs 10th (1012)
Total Bases 10th (2912)
WAR 8th (54.4)
SLG 6th (.523)
OPS 7th (.901)
HR 4th (696)
RBI 3rd (2084)
Runs 9th (2021)
Total Bases 6th (5811)