Alex Rodriguez strikes out in the ninth inning as the New York Yankees lose the Houston Astros 3-0 in the American League at Yankee Stadium. 10/6/15 Bronx, NY
By Ryan Hatch
NEW YORK — For 62 minutes beginning at 11:00 a.m. Sunday morning at 161st street in the Bronx, the three most-public members employed by the New York Yankees—slugger Alex Rodriguez, general manager Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi—addressed the media, in that order, for what was the most-anticipated press conference of the season.
Here’s what came of it:
- Rodriguez, currently the most famous active professional baseball player, is set to play his last major league game this coming Friday, at home against the Tampa Bay Rays. Following the game he will be unconditionally released by the organization.
- The contract Rodriguez signed, in 2007, goes through 2017 and from this day on he’s still owed about $27 million dollars. He will receive every penny, even if another team picks him up (unlikely).
- A-Rod will stay on with the the team as a special advisor through 2017, advising owner Hal Steinbrenner primarily about the younger players in the organization.
All of this can be absorbed on the level. He will play his last game Friday, he may very well tutor Yanks minor leaguers, and you can bet he’s going to be cashing all those checks.
But let’s not make any mistake: this was not A-Rod’s idea to retire, none of it was, and the Yankees forced him out.
Rodriguez, who shed several tears Sunday, said he and Mr. Steinbrenner had a meeting last Wednesday and while he declined to confirm there was an ultimatum given, that sure seems like the case.
“The answer is, sure, of course, I think I can play baseball,” Rodriguez said. “You always think that you have one more hit and can help your team win one more game, for sure. That wasn’t in the cards. That was the Yankees’ decision. I’m at peace with it.”
Rodriguez characterized the last month or so as “painful,” “awkward,” and “embarrassing.” Since July 22 he’s started just one game and in 30 second-half at-bats Rodriguez has just three hits.
For the first time in his career he’s become a bench player. A quad injury in May slowed him down, he said.
“Mechanically, I just never felt like I caught up,” A-Rod said. “I have a little bit over 200 at-bats and I always felt that with rest and with reps and with fixing some of my techniques, I thought I would finish and have a stronger year next year. Again, that wasn’t in the cards.”
Indeed, a guy thinking he would have a “stronger year next year” is not a guy thinking about retiring in five days.
Said Cashman on whose idea it was to send Rodriguez packing:
“I wasn’t part of the conversation with Alex and Hal so I can’t tell you how they want,” Cashman said. “I know from the statements from Hal before this day and the statements from Alex before this day, they both felt very comfortable with their dialogue and so that’s all I can really say. Based on listening to both of them, my guess is I don’t think it would be a forced situation. I think you gotta take Alex’s word for that, and Hal can speak for himself.”
Rodriguez’s word, of course, is that he thinks he can still play baseball. Steinbrenner has not spoke publicly since the news broke.
Girardi said that the last month with the losing, the trades, and the A-Rod drama, has been difficult. One must assume Girardi’s relieved the A-Rod story will no longer be one by this time next week.
“It’s been a tough month, for a lot of different reasons,” Girardi said. We can talk about the trade deadline, we can talk about [Mark Teixeira retiring] and what he’s meant to this organization. … Alex has meant a lot to me. This has been a tough month. Obviously it’s a hot topic every day and it’s not an easy topic to talk about, so it’s taken it’s toll.”
The Yankees are allowing A-Rod to play a final home game in front of his family — he said his mother and two daughters will be there.
But that’s it until next spring and his supposed mentorship begins.
“After Friday I will be going home,” Rodriguez said.