The rain cleared, the game ended, the chanting stopped, and the door closed. Last Friday night, A-Rod said goodbye to the Bronx; and the Bronx said goodbye to one of the most polarizing athletes in the history of the sport.
Love him or hate him, A-Rod had a storied career. And while we can debate whether or not Friday night was the last time we see him in uniform , it cannot be denied that his final week in pinstripes was as unusual as any player in history:
- The Yankees gave him a 5-day warning before he was fired.
- Joe Girardi gave him assurances he could play as much as he wanted and then went back on his word(s), twisting himself into a pretzel to declare “my job description does not entail farewell tours”. I guess Joe conveniently forgot 2013 and 2014.
- The Red Sox fans chanted “we want A-Rod”, and then watched him go 0-5 over 2 games at Fenway.
- Rain nearly washed away Rodriguez’s final game (Mother Nature has a warped sense of humor).
- Girardi denied A-Rod’s request to play third base in his final game; then Girardi denied the request was even made.
- And then, although in the lineup as DH, Alex played third base in the top of the ninth for one out (a strikeout). He left to a standing ovation.
The curtain dropped. And then it rose again . . .
The moment A-Rod’s odd Sunday morning press conference ended, every talking-head seized on his failure/refusal to utter the word “retire”. Once officially released, any team can have A-Rod for a pro-rated minimum salary. When Giancarlo Stanton went down for the year, the chattering class started in earnest, speculating whether or not A-Rod could lead his hometown Marlins to the Wild Card as a right-handed/platoon option at first base. A-Rod’s publicist quickly kiboshed that idea, issuing a statement that he would not play for another team in 2016. 2017 was conspicuously absent from the release.
But enough about all of that. This guy has been pilloried and derided, battered and abused, sixty feet six inches from Sunday.
But if you are able to look past the mirror he kissed; the centaur painting; the PEDs; the makeup; the slap; the Jeter diss; the general and all-around douche baggery, you can find a moment that never gets enough coverage, and for which Alex never gets enough credit:
Before the 2004 season, Rodriguez signed a deal memo wherein he would have given up nearly $30 million of the $179 million remaining on his contract to facilitate a trade from the (then) moribund Rangers to the 5-outs-away-from-the-World Series Red Sox. Sure, a 16% sale at Nordstrom may not move your needle, but giving up 1/6 of a guaranteed contract for a chance to play with a contender was essentially agreeing to play more than a season for free. The MLBPA nixed the deal, the Yankees figured out the trade, and the rest is history.
Sure, Red Sox fans (in hindsight) breathed a sigh of relief; sure, the Red Sox won two World Series without A-Rod before the Yankees won one with A-Rod, and then added another for good measure; sure Manny Ramirez became a legend before he became a pariah in Boston; sure Jon Lester was instrumental in two World Series championships for Boston and he would have been gone but for the MLBPA’s veto of the deal.
But sliding doors notwithstanding, one can never forget that in an era of me-first players, an era of ever-increasing salaries, an era of opt-out clauses, and billion dollar team valuations, A-Rod offered to give back $30M to play in the harshest media market in America. It is unfortunate that all of the negative stories (and, to be sure, there are many) will resign this story to the scrap heap of baseball history, buried in the rubble of deals that never happened, agate-type never printed.
So the next time we cheer Robinson Cano (who left NY for an additional $65 million); or Albert Pujols (who left the Cardinals for an additional $44 million), or Zack Greinke (who left the Dodgers for an additional $51.5), or Johnny Damon (who left the “Idiots” for the “Hated Ones” for an additional $12 million), remember the one guy who offered to take less – way less – just for a chance to win. It won’t make you love A-Rod, but it might make him a skosh less hateable.