Alex Rodriguez has left a legacy in his time with the Yankees, with two America League Most Valuable Player awards and playing a big part in their last championship.
“I’m wearing this 2009 ring right here,” ,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in his press conference on Sunday morning as he put that ring on the table in front of him. “Take a look a it, that’s the ’09 ring, that doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex’s contribution, significant contributions.”
The Yankees owe it to Rodriguez, who came to New York in 2004, to play the three games in Boston leading up to his final game on Friday night at Yankee Stadium against Tampa Bay.
He has 696 career home runs, and is just four away from joining the illustrious 700 Club, which currently has just three members, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth, respectively.
One place Rodriguez has always hit well at is Fenway Park, and if he is allowed to play the three games there, he would have 12 to 15 at-bats to go for 700.
A-Rod would then have four or five more at-bats on Friday night at what will be an electric atmosphere for his last game.
What a way to go out if he gets that 700th home run in his final game.
Manager Joe Girardi said he will be having a conversation with Rodriguez to determine how much he wants to play in his final week with the Yankees, and he made it clear that if he wants to play, he will.
The interesting thing will be what kind of reception he will get at Fenway from the Boston fans.
“I’m not sure what he’ll get, I think he’s meant a lot to this game,” Girardi said.”I think that he’s provided a lot of excitement around the country, around the world for year after year with the numbers that he has put up, so I hope he is received well.”
The way Rodriguez’s career has gone, it would almost be fitting if he came up just short of joining such an elite group, like the 700 club.
A-Rod was bound for glory, with three MVP awards, in 2003 with Texas and his two with the Yankees in 2005 and 2007, the best player in baseball until around 2010.
Throughout the later part of his career, he was dogged by steroid allegations and was suspended for the 2014 season.
Any player that has been linked to steroids, like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, has had their path to the Hall of Fame derailed, and that is certainly true of Rodriguez.
When he returned in 2015, Rodriguez renewed his image, as he showed a greater appreciation for the game and showed signs of his old glory, with 33 home runs and 86 RBI, and carried the Yankees through the first half of the season.
Towards the end of last season, he was riddled by injuries and has not been able to get it going this season, hitting just .204 with nine home runs and 29 RBI.
“It’s been hard,” Girardi said of watching Rodriguez this season. “I don’t think any player ever wants to get to this point. You know, Alex talked about it, none of us ever want to take the uniform off.
“It was easy to pencil his name in that lineup every day, you know, hitting third and playing third base, and never having to worry about where I was going to put him, never worry about the effort that I was going to get, never worry about the production I was going to get. I man, my job was easy when it came to Alex.
“As times have changed, and he had to earn his at-bats when he came back last year, he did a tremendous job earning those at-bats and it was rewarding to be able to put him back int that three slot and let him perform. This is difficult because this is a guy that you would love to say you had forever, that never goes away. Any manager would love to write Alex’s name in the lineup, hitting him third, put him at third base, or when he was younger, at shortstop, never have to worry, playing 150, 155 games, and know that you were going to get 140, 150 RBIs. That’s a dream for a manager.”
Rodriguez is someone who loves the game of baseball and is aware of his legacy.
“I do want to be remembered as someone who fell in love with the game of baseball, someone who loved it at every level, someone who loved to learn, teach it, watch it, play it, coach it, and also I’m going to hopefully be remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, someone that kept getting up.”
Rodriguez will be released after Friday’s game and will become a free agent. He will be paid the full value of his remaining contract, including the $21 million owed to him next season.
If Rodriguez has not reached the 700 mark by his last game as a Yankee, might he want to look at another team?
There could be a team, probably in the American League because of the designated hitter, that in the pennant race that feels Rodriguez might have something left in the tank.
The interesting thing is if he is signed before August 31, where he would be eligible for the postseason, or in September, where he could help a team make it to October.
The obvious choice is Seattle, who is in the playoff chase for the first time in a while, and Rodriguez is one of the faces of the greatest era in their history, in the ’90s.
“Obviously, he’s had a very exciting career filled with some ups and downs, clearly,” Cashman said. “I think he also spoke about someone who had his ups and downs, but he always got back up. That was a real true assessment of what he has done. In the world we all live, everybody makes mistakes, everybody has made a left turn when he should have made a right turn. And it’s just what do you after the fact, at some point, when the balance comes back in play, and I think Alex has really returned and been great in that clubhouse, tremendous with our coaches, tremendous with the front office. I think representing the franchise since his return, he’s been everything we’ve wanted.”
It must be emphasized that Rodriguez is the consummate teammate, and that was shown by the fact that the entire Yankees team came in for his press conference.
Rodriguez would like to be remembered for the accomplishments he had on the field, as well as the person he is.
Those are the qualities of a True Yankee, one worthy of a fond farewell.