In a sudden press conference, Alex Rodriguez announced that he will play his last game as a member of the New York Yankees on Friday, August 12th.
After the game’s conclusion, Rodriguez will be released from his contract and become a free agent. After the season, Rodriguez will become a Special Advisor to Yankee Managing Partner Hal Steinbrenner.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on A-Rod’s polarizing yet always-entertaining career as a Major League Baseball player.
Alex Rodriguez began his journey as a professional baseball player when he was selected as the first overall pick in the 1993 MLB Draft by the Seattle Mariners. Rodriguez was billed as a generational talent, a player that would go down as possibly the greatest of all-time.
Rodriguez didn’t take long to justify that praise. He debuted with the Mariners as an 18-year-old shortstop back in 1994. However, his first real Major League action didn’t come until the 1996 season.
In 1996, Rodriguez took the league by storm. The 20-year-old known as “A-Rod” led the league with a .358 average, 54 doubles, and 141 runs scored, good for a second-place finish in MVP voting as well as the first of 14 All-Star Game nominations and 10 Silver Sluggers.
Rodriguez continued to dominate Major League pitching with the Mariners, averaging 37 homers, 115 RBI, and 25 steals per season from 1996-2000. The scary part? Rodriguez hadn’t even reached 25 years of age yet.
Following the 2000 season, Rodriguez became the most highly sought-after free agent in sports history. Few predicted Rodriguez’s massive 10-year, $252 million contract he signed with the rebuilding Texas Rangers, the most expensive sports contract ever at the time.
The contract clogged the Rangers’ payroll, which limited their ability to bring in supplemental pieces to support Rodriguez. As such, the Rangers endured 3 straight losing seasons despite the heroics of Rodriguez (he played his prime years in Texas, and won the 2003 MVP Award).
With the Rangers wishing to improve the rest of their club, the Rangers put Rodriguez on the trade block. The New York Mets, Alex’s first choice, didn’t want any of A-Rod’s headaches and the Yankees didn’t need a shortstop, which made a trade to the Boston Red Sox seem imminent.
With the deal pending MLB approval, the MLBPA swooped in at the last moment and deemed the trade void due to the large amount of salary that Rodriguez would be docked to accept a trade to the Red Sox.
While the Red Sox scrambled for a solution, Aaron Boone, the New York Yankees’ third baseman, injured his knee in a pickup basketball game.
A crazy thought emerged from Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman: what if Rodriguez would be willing to play third base for the Yankees? This would allow the Yankees to have the game’s best infield, and would also hurt the rival Red Sox.
And Alex said yes.
The following deal came together quickly. The Yankees would send Alfonso Soriano, Joaquin Arias, and cash to the Rangers in exchange for Rodriguez. As Red Sox fans cursed the Yankees, the Bombers looked poised for another title run.
Rodriguez got off to a slow start for the Yankees, but overall had a strong debut with the club. But when A-Rod and the Yankees blew a 3-0 series lead against the hated Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS, fans deemed the year a failure.
Rodriguez worked harder than ever before in 2005, which earned him his second MVP Award. Still, the club was eliminated quickly in the postseason. Another quick exit followed in 2006.
The Yankees of 2004-2008 were a different bunch than the Yankees of 1996-2003, and part of that was Rodriguez’s doing. His acquisition and personality had divided the Yankee clubhouse. Still, A-Rod and the Yankees were determined to make 2007 a different story.
Rodriguez had his greatest statistical year in 2007, mashing 54 home runs, an incredible 156 RBI, and posted a career-best 1.067 OPS. But the Yankees were undone by their poor pitching and their bats going silent in the playoffs yet again. This time, it cost manager Joe Torre his job.
Rodriguez saw it as a good time to move on, so he exercised his opt-out rights and became a free agent at the age of 31. Rodriguez was initially shunned by the Yankees, but they quickly patched things up and re-signed their golden slugger to a massive 10-year, $275 million contract, the new most expensive contract in sports history.
New skipper Joe Girardi came aboard for the 2008 season, and the club missed the playoffs for the first time since 1994. Rodriguez was his same old dominant self, but yet again it didn’t get the Yankees anywhere.
Rodriguez had played 5 seasons with the Yankees, averaged 42 home runs and 123 RBI per season, and gotten to zero World Series. It led to some fans wondering if the team would ever win with Alex on the roster.
Then came the first steroid scandal.
Following a report in February of 2009, Rodriguez, who was already slated to miss the first month of the season with a hip injury, admitted to the use of Performance-Enhancing Drugs while with the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003. He insisted that he was clean while with the Yankees.
Rodriguez received acclaim for his openness and personality change following the controversy. A refocused A-Rod had a season for the ages in 2009, and even improved once the postseason came around. This change resulted in the Yankees’ first Championship since 2000, and Rodriguez’s first ever.
Rodriguez continued his rebirth in 2010, posting 30 homers and 125 RBI, but struggled with injuries in 2011 and 2012. This resulted in Rodriguez turning back to an old friend: PEDs.
Indeed, it wasn’t long before Rodriguez was nailed again for his steroid use, which cost him most of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 campaign due to suspension.
The manner in which Rodriguez conducted himself while fighting the suspension made it seem unlikely that he would ever play for the Yankees again. After all, he had publicly shot off his mouth to Yankee brass, sued the Yankee team doctor, and overall tarnished his recently-recovered reputation.
But to A-Rod’s credit, he laid low during his suspension and came back a changed man in 2015 to the Yankees. Given virtually no expectations as the club’s 39-year-old Designated Hitter who hadn’t played in years, Rodriguez roared through the 2015 season with 33 home runs, 86 RBI, and a positive attitude.
Unfortunately, Rodriguez began to resemble his 40-year-old self in 2016. He lost his bat speed and was hitting just .206 with 9 home runs at the time he was notified of his impending release. He will enjoy his last week in Yankee pinstripes, which will conclude on Friday, August 12th.
Alex Rodriguez’s entire career has been a roller coaster ride, and now he is on the final drop. He has lost the ability to play the game he loves and is essentially being forced into retirement.
Rodriguez has survived two steroid controversies, numerous PR trip-ups, and a feud with his boss, yet has emerged a changed man. His position as a Special Advisor to Hal Steinbrenner suits him well, and the likeness of Alex Rodriguez will almost certainly reside in Monument Park someday down the road.
Despite all that he’s been through, it will be sad to see Rodriguez go next week. He is a baseball legend, and the Yankees should feel privileged that Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez will be training the Yankees of tomorrow.