It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Rather than completing his career in a generally meaningless game on a Friday night in August, Alex Rodriguez was supposed to exit either with a dramatic World Series performance or after eclipsing the “bogus” home run record of a disgraced cheater.
Instead, following a hastened Sunday morning press conference, Rodriguez will serve on the active roster for the Yankees only through August 12th before being released. While there is still a chance that he will be picked up by another team, the fact that he is still owed more than $25 million dollars over the next year means he will likely instead move to an advisor role with the Yankees.
It seems like forever ago, but it has actually only been eight years (2008) since Rodriguez was seen by most in baseball as the savior who would free the game from the purgatory of having Barry Bonds and his chemically supported body at the top of the prestigious career home run list.
Of course, we all know about his dramatic fall from grace. It started with a Sports Illustrated article and a somewhat confusing explanation in 2009 where Rodriguez admitted to taking PEDs given to him by a relative while with the Texas Rangers, but insisted it was a short-term thing and hadn’t significantly enhanced his performance.
While his explanation was hard for some to accept, for the most part people (most particularly Yankee fans) took it hook line and sinker. Especially when he overcame past playoff failures and helped lead the Yankees to a World Series title in 2009.
Interestingly, while Rodriguez still showed above average power for the next couple seasons, he never again hit .300 for a season (something he had done nine times between 1995 and 2008). He also started regularly missing time with injuries starting in 2009.
After reaching 30 home runs and 100+ RBI in 2009 and 2010, from 2011-2013 Rodriguez played in only 265 games (out of 486) and totaled only 41 home runs and 138 RBI in three years.
During this time, his insistence that using PEDs was not a regular part of his career also came into question as he was prominently mentioned in the investigation of the Biogenesis lab in Miami. It was his inclusion and supposed attempt to cover up his involvement that resulted in Major League Baseball coming down with a historic suspension that ultimately saw Rodriguez miss the entire 2014 season.
Despite some wondering whether the Yankees would want him back, the fact that they owed him $65 million guaranteed that he would return.
Playing almost exclusively as the designated hitter, Rodriguez actually had a solid season at the age of 39 in 2015. He appeared in 151 games, his most since 2007, and hit 33 home runs with 86 RBI. However, he struggled over the final two months of the season and went hitless as the Yankees lost the Wild Card Playoff Game.
Should Alex Rodriguez Be Voted Into the Baseball Hall of Fame?
- No (57%, 17 Votes)
- Yes (43%, 13 Votes)
Total Voters: 30
This season time has finally caught up to the 40 year old. He enters his final week with a .204 batting average (which, perhaps ironically, is exactly what he hit during his first stint in the majors prior to the 1994 player’s strike) with 9 home runs and 29 RBI.
Once thought to be a shoo-in to set a new major league home run record, Rodriguez currently has 696 and will need some unlikely production over the next week to join Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth in the 700 home run club.
It also now seems unlikely that Rodriguez will ever have his day of recognition at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Given that Bonds and Roger Clemens, who like Rodriguez have the statistics to be considered among the all-time greats, have received only minimal HOF support, there would need to be a major shift in mindset over the next decade for Rodriguez to ever earn induction.
Therefore, his final appearance as an active player at Yankee Stadium on Friday may be the last time real opportunity for him to be the center of attention on a baseball diamond. Given the rocky relationship between Rodriguez and the Yankees over the last few years (not to mention that he sued major league baseball over his suspension), it will be interesting to see how his final game is handled. Will there be a special pre-game ceremony? Will Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and the other famed Yankees of the last decade be on hand to help say goodbye? Former commissioner Bud Selig is likely off the hook, but what about current commissioner Rob Manfred?
Considering that Rodriguez has earned more than $416 million dollars in his career, A-Rod has plenty of money to throw himself his own huge retirement party if he wants.
I expect that the Yankees will have some pre-game program, but unlike the “love fest” that has occurred around the league with the retirement of David Ortiz, it will likely be a more tempered ceremony that feels a bit like attending a school program where you have to go because your child is singing in the choir than the celebration of the career of one of the best players in baseball history.
This isn’t how it was supposed to end for A-Rod, but as they say, you reap what you sow.