Alex Rodriguez, 41, will play his final game (maybe) Friday. The farewell figures to evoke about as much emotion from the rank and file baseball fan as saying goodbye to a mole on the neck that has turned unsightly and a little bit worrisome.
“This is how it ends for Alex Rodriguez?” the New York Times Harvey Araton wondered. “With a Yankees-orchestrated whimper instead of an all-out public relations war?”
Some will say A-Rod is retiring. Some might suggest he is being excised. Such is the complexity of his legacy. One of the singular players of his generation – given the platform of the New York Yankees for a dozen years, and all the sentimental advantages that usually entails – will fade into crowded tapestry of baseball’s past with relatively little ceremony.
Will the man who has only 18 fewer career home runs than Babe Ruth, who has 900 more hits than Joe DiMaggio, 575 more RBI than Mickey Mantle and has appeared in 1,506 games as a Yankee (43 more than Roger Maris), get his place in the Yankees garden of monuments beyond centerfield? It is difficult to imagine, again given the often thorny relationship between player and franchise, underscored by his year-long PED suspension in 2014.
Derek Jeter was given a hero’s send-off, while a badly slumping Rodriguez was quietly convinced to go away with nearly two months remaining in the season and him needing but four more homers to push his career total to a nice, round 700. The Yankees were in no mood to suffer his presence for a few weeks more while he went milestone hunting.
And the door to the Hall of Fame would seem barred to Rodriguez, at least until there is a complete overhaul in the way the voters regard lying, scheming performance enhancing drug users.
Do not despair for Rodriguez.
As John Harper wrote in the New York Daily News: “There was nothing warm and fuzzy about (Rodriguez’s) parting. Mostly it was a way out for both sides. A-Rod got to say he is retiring, after one last home game on Friday, yet actually be released by the ballclub, meaning that he gets all of his money, including $21 million next season.”
For that celestial sum, Rodriguez is to serve as a “special advisor and instructor” for the Yankees.
For $21 million, Rodriguez better be imparting some real Dalai Lama-quality advice. Not only should the young Yankees he counsels raise their batting averages 50 points or more, but they all should enjoy unparalleled portfolio growth, the happiest of love lives and unprecedented periodontal health under Rodriguez’s high-priced tutelage.
But if they learn nothing more than to avoid the hidden traps of hubris that so often collected their instructor, Rodriguez will have earned a fair share of that salary.