Is this really how Alex Rod riguez is going out? Fighting back tears at a podium, delivering his amicable farewell to the Yankees, then stepping off the New York stage a year early — and four home runs short of 700?
It sure looks that way.
The Yankees gave us that impression at about 8 p.m. Saturday, roughly four hours after a 5-2 loss to the Indians at the Stadium, by sending out an email alerting everyone to a news conference for 11 a.m. Sunday — with Rodriguez and Brian Cashman the featured speakers.
Then the team went silent.
Just another dramatic turn in the A-Rod saga, a 13-season Bronx soap opera starring the sport’s most polarizing figure, one whom people couldn’t avert their eyes from. Love him or hate him, Rodriguez often was the man responsible for keeping the Yankees relevant, both before and after his season-long Biogenesis suspension in 2014.
So maybe now it’s only fitting that as the spotlight dims, the time is right for A-Rod to make his exit. The Yankees began the rebuilding process by selling off their best assets by last Monday’s trade deadline, and on Friday, Mark Teixeira announced his pending retirement.
We’ve been saying for days that the Yankees need to cut Rod riguez loose, but team officials seemed hesitant, insisting during the Subway Series that it wasn’t going to happen yet.
And we’re not positive it’s going down Sunday, either. At least not a clean break. But Rod riguez and the Yankees — specifically Joe Girardi — have sounded like a couple more than ready for a divorce.
Last week at Citi Field, Rod riguez told us he would be fine if Hal Steinbrenner and Cashman changed their minds and released him.
“Whatever they do, I’m at peace,” Rodriguez said. “I’m fine with everything.”
Girardi, however, was having a tougher time with the growing A-Rod fiasco. Unlike Cashman and Steinbrenner, who discussed Rodriguez’s fate behind the scenes, the manager was forced to handle the media’s questions about A-Rod’s future on a daily basis. And Girardi’s patience had been wearing thin.
The crisis came to a head last week as Rodriguez not only sat against Mets lefthander Steven Matz but didn’t get a chance to face the 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, a pitcher A-Rod had raked for a .442 average (23-for-52) with eight home runs. In Girardi’s defense, it felt as if he were merely following orders from the higher-ups.
Girardi kept repeating the company line about playing the kids, which meant using Gary Sanchez — the Yankees’ top catching prospect — to DH in Rodriguez’s place. The manager went as far as to say he couldn’t envision a scenario in which Rodriguez would crack the lineup.
When Girardi was asked Thursday if his life would be made easier by A-Rod’s release, he tried hard to answer in civil fashion. “These aren’t really fair questions, are they?” he said. “I mean, he’s part of our club, and he’s going to continue to be a part of our club. That’s the bottom line.”
But the Yankees no longer have any use for A-Rod, not as a viable run-producer in the middle of their lineup nor as a marketing tool to sell tickets. At age 41, he’s batting .204 with a .609 OPS, a shadow of his former three-MVP self. The only thing that has tethered A-Rod to the Yankees for this long is the $27 million he’s owed through next season, and we’re betting he won’t surrender any of that regardless of what Sunday’s revelation turns out to be.
There are other options. Maybe Rodriguez goes home for the remainder of this season, gives the Yankees a window to evaluate the Scranton call-ups, and starts his winter prep early for 2017. Or A-Rod could agree to work for the Yankees in another capacity and perhaps defer the payments over a number of years. But would he really call it quits four homers shy of 700, and 18 homers shy of Babe Ruth’s 714, and dismiss the possibility that his hometown Marlins would be willing to offer him a shot if he’s set free by the Yankees?
“I think I can contribute,” Rod riguez said last week. “But if not, I have two beautiful daughters waiting for me in Miami.”
A-Rod, incredibly, finally could be home soon.