In a tear-filled press conference in New York, Yankees star Álex Rodríguez announced he will retire as a player, effective this Friday. Even though it is a surprise, it fits with the pattern of this season. Manager Joe Girardi, has been reluctant to play A-Rod, evading questions about when the shortstop-third baseman-DH will play again, or even if he will play again.
In the recent Subway Series between the Mets and the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, Rodríguez could have started the game at third base or as a DH on Thursday when Bartolo Colón started for the Mets and could have had a great game at the plate. A-Rod is batting .442 against Colón. But, Girardi kept Rodríguez on the bench, a move that surprised Colón. After the game the Mets All Star told reporters, “I always says he’s my daddy.”
It’s been over six years since Rodríguez hit his 600th home run and right now he is just four away from joining the 700 club. Barry Bonds has 762, Hank Aaron has 755 and Babe Ruth started the club, finishing his career in 1935 with 714.
Interesting stat, which says a lot about the modern era of baseball — and causes many to be cynical about the game and sports in general — it took 39 years for Aaron to break the Bambino’s record. And despite it being another 32 years before Bonds broke Aaron’s record, the 600 home run club went from three players, Aaron, Ruth and Willie Mays, to eight: Bonds, Ken Griffey, Jr., Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriquez. Three of those players: Bonds, Sosa and Rodríguez, have been implicated in doping scandals. And that is part of the reason A-Rod is having such a hard time with the Yankees.
Plus, his exploits off the field, good or bad, often appeared to get in the way of the team. His love life, the steroid charges — which cost him an entire season due to a suspension — plus hip surgeries and other injuries limited his appeal to both Yankees management and fans. Fans see that big fat $27 million left on his contract as a millstone around the neck of the Yankees organization.
But, with Rodríguez the Yankees have won the World Series once, in 2009. He hit .250, with one home run on five hits and six RBI’s. Not bad, but not up to the numbers one would expect from a player making $20 million per year.
For his part, A-Rod has apologized for his bad behavior and has expressed his desire to remain with the Yankees until the end of his career. Many expected Rodríguez would join that 700 club, especially because he became the youngest player to hit 600.
A-Rod is 40 years old now and the toll of his 22 year career is having its effect on him. In his press conference he said, “This is a tough day. I love this game, and I love this team. And today, I’m saying goodbye to both.” He added, “It’s been very painful and embarrassing to sit on the bench. It’s been awkward.”
He will stay with the Yankees through the 2017 season as a special consultant, reporting directly to team president Hal Steinbrenner. A-Rod will get the $27 million left on his contract and he will mentor the younger Yankees, specifically on the costs of his mistakes as a player. Presumably he will also help them with their hitting. In 2015 Rodríguez hit .250 with 33 homers and 86 RBI’s. His career batting average over 22 years is .295 and that’s nothing to sneeze at.
It’s just too bad the Yankees didn’t give Alex Rodríguez the rest of the season to try and get into that 700 club. He has 696, just four away. For all his faults, all his missteps, everything he’s done to stain the reputation of professional baseball and embarrass the New York Yankees organization, Rodríguez has paid the price with the suspension, lived and worked through the injuries and managed to put the side show of his personal life aside. He deserves a shot at that milestone.
That will never happen, at least not with the Yankess. A-Rod will have one last game in the Bronx, Friday, August 12. The credential requests have probably shut down the Yankees media operations already.
When asked if there was a chance he would play for another team in the 2018 season and beyond (The Yankees control his contract through 2017), Rodríguez replied, “A lot’s happened in the last 72 hours. I have not thought past the pinstripes.”
Claudia Gestro contributed to this article and provided all photos.
Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality.