A-Rod ends career after 22 seasons
Alex Rodriguez played his final game in pinstripes on Aug. 12, one week after he announced his retirement from baseball. Despite being the subject of many harsh critiques about his play as of late, the New York Yankees allowed him to quietly leave the team midseason on mutually-agreed terms. The 41-year-old three-time American League MVP will receive the remaining $27 million on his contract over the next two years as he transitions into a special advisory role for the team, thereby avoiding a nasty divorce. Rodriguez grossed nearly half a billion dollars only in baseball salary, but even his money could not help him avoid the huge doping scandal which shadowed him for the better part of his career.
Rodriguez signed a 10-year $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers in 2001 as he entered the prime of his career. He missed just one game in three years and averaged 52 home runs, 131 runs batted in and a 1.010 on-base plus slugging percentage, winning an MVP in 2003. Out of contention and seeking monetary relief, the Rangers first agreed to trade A-Rod to the Red Sox, but the players union vetoed the deal because it required Rodriguez to take a voluntary pay cut. The Yankees took advantage and sent Alfonso Soriano and Joaquin Arias to the Rangers for A-Rod, adding fuel to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry. An all-out brawl with Jason Varitek and an illegal slap of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in Game 6 of the 2004 American League Championship Series elevated the combative nature between Bostonians and A-Rod. Red Sox faithful applauded A-Rod in his final appearance at Fenway Park; not as a post-ironic gesture, but an earnest thank you for being such a great villain.
In a 2007 60 Minutes interview with Katie Couric, following A-Rod’s name appearing in the George Mitchell report, a 409-page investigation of rampant use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Major League Baseball, Rodriguez calmly told her, “I’ve never used steroids.” Two years later, Sports Illustrated reported Rodriguez tested positive for an anabolic steroid back in 2003. When speaking to Peter Gammons of ESPN, he admitted to being “young, stupid and naïve,” and wanting to prove he deserved to be compared to baseball legends.
Even as he redeemed himself to Yankees fans later that year by propelling the team to World Series glory, Rodriguez found his old habits hard to break. He went on a scorched earth campaign in 2013 when reports linked him to Biogenesis of America, a Miami health clinic that was found to supply MLB players with PEDs. A-Rod blasted Commissioner Bud Selig on Mike Francesca’s radio show immediately after storming out of a meeting with league officials, vehemently denying any connection to the clinic. When under oath in a federal court, however, he confessed to both personal steroid use and introducing players to Biogenesis. He was hit with a year-long suspension in 2014, the most severe punishment ever handed for doping.
A-Rod flipped the script in 2015 as he notched another 30-home run, 100-RBI season, adding to his record of such seasons. Twenty-one years in the big leagues ravaged his body, as hip and knee injuries were all too common for the slugger.
A-Rod’s retirement, along with C.C. Sabathia’s sharp decline and Mark Teixeira calling it a career, closes a chapter in Yankees history. The youth movement in the Bronx is paying dividends as the Bombers are still in the Wild Card hunt even after they swapped their most talented players for prospects. Rodriguez said he wants to pass on any knowledge he can to the youngsters in his new role. Certainly, he is well placed to advise the team to stay away from banned substances.