Since the New York Yankees made it clear they’re not planning on fighting for a postseason spot this season, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Alex Rodriguez getting more at bats to try and chase more home run milestones. Turns out the ball club had something else in mind, and are forcing Rodriguez to retire.
Teary eyed during the press conference, Rodriguez didn’t look like someone who wants to leave Baseball. Instead he looked like someone whose decision is made for him. He’ll be released by the Yankees after the Friday game against the Tampa Bay Rays, and then become a special adviser through the 2017 season. The Yankees weren’t going to keep him anyway, but preferred making the end of his playing career seem like it came from both sides.
Rodriguez, 41, is batting just .204 this season with a .609 OPS. He has 9 home runs this season, taking him to 696 in his career, and Rodriguez was hoping that until his contract is up in 2017 (still owed $21 million for next season, not including the home run bonuses), he’d have the chance to come as close as possible to Barry Bonds and the home run record of 762, or at least become the fourth player in history to reach the 700 home runs milestone, joining Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Rodriguez is 4th all-time, with the next one among active players is Albert Pujols with 581, 11th all-time.
But Rodriguez did have an improbable 2015 season, returning after a long injury and a year of suspension. He batted.250 with a .842 OPS last season, hitting 33 home runs, his first 30 HR season since 2011, helping the Yankees make the playoffs. Sure, he wasn’t accurate, efficient or giving anything on defense, but as a designated hitter, Rodriguez was doing a very good job for the Yankees. But not enough this season, and the combination of his ability, the bonuses the Yankees didn’t want to pay him and maybe some bad blood between him and the front office led to the decision. Brian Cashman, the general manager, simply said We had no choice here, given the performance.
PEDs or not, Rodriguez is one of the best players in baseball history, although it probably won’t get him into the hall of fame. Making his debut for the Seattle Mariners in 1994, and later playing for the Texas Rangers and Yankees, he won the AL MVP award three times, getting votes in the MVP ballots for 15 consecutive seasons starting in 1996. He made the All-Star game 14 times, winning 10 silver slugger awards and two gold glove awards. He led the league in home runs five times, hitting 30 home runs or more 15 times, and 40 or more 8 times, and over 50 3 times. He has a career batting average of .295, and a career OPS of .930. He won the World Series with the Yankees in 2009, hitting 6 home runs in that postseason, batting .365 with a 1.308 OPS.
There really was no other choice for Rodriguez. It was either getting cut or retiring. It’s a combination of both, but not leaving him without a team, trying to extend his career a little bit longer. Maybe the Yankees should have kept him hitting at DH for at least this season, considering they have nothing to play for and he’s not holding anyone back from developing. But the Yankees aren’t about fun, or making their fans and Rodriguez simply happy for no reason. Their inability to compete for a playoff spot is frustrating enough. Not doing well while simply letting a player go for it and doing what’s probably not the best thing for the team was simply a decision they couldn’t take.