The unknown about the future of Dominican slugger Alex Rodríguez in professional baseball in the Major Leagues was defined when the New York Yankees player confirmed that he will play the last game next Friday and then continue as a special adviser and instructor to the team.
Rodríguez and the Yankees offered a press conference before the team’s game against the Cleveland Indians.
“This is a difficult day. I love this game and I love this team,” the player of Dominican roots declared, often with a lump in his throat. “And today I’m saying goodbye.”
A-Rod will play Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium before ending the career of one of the most prolific yet controversial figures in baseball history, which even cost him a one-year suspension for alleged doping.
The 41-year-old designated hitter is hitting .204 this season with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats.
His poor late performance relegated him to the bench for most of the previous month, so he’s only started once and made seven plate appearances in 14 games since July 22.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi also did not include him today on the starting roster for the ninth that faces the Indians.
With Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and their teammates in attendance at the team’s news conference, Rodriguez said he was grateful to get a few more at-bats in front of family and friends.
“We all want to keep playing forever,” he said. “But the sports world doesn’t work that way.”
A-Rod acknowledged that he was not having his best hitting moment, but it was something that always happened to him and then came back stronger after resting.
“I was convinced that I was going to have a great year in 2017, but now that is no longer important and we have to think about the future,” Rodríguez commented.
When last Monday, the Yankees (55-55), in fourth place in the American League East, traded veteran relievers, Cuban Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, Puerto Rican outfielder Carlos Beltrán and Dominican starter Iván Nova before the limit to make transfers, they showed that they wanted to rejuvenate the squad.
Rodríguez, a three-time American League Most Valuable Player (MVP) and 14-time All-Star, has 696 home runs and is fourth on the all-time list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
After Friday’s game, A-Rod will be released unconditionally by the team and will return home to Florida to be reunited with his family.
A-Rod also said he thinks his off-the-field duties would start at next year’s spring training in Tampa, since the entire coaching staff is set this season.
The veteran Yankees player has a $20 million salary this year and is due another $20 million in 2017, the final year of a 10-year deal he signed for $217 million.
The contract signed by A-Rod was the largest in professional baseball history at the time.
The Yankees will have to pay him all the money since the contract is guaranteed.
“There is a lot of talk about the economic issue, but when you get to the Yankees it is the greatest thing you can achieve as a player since you are part of a team in which the only thing that matters is winning,” Rodríguez stressed.
The veteran baseball player said he felt “calm with himself” for what he had achieved and now he was looking forward to the new stage of his professional and personal career.
For his part, the owner of the Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner, acknowledged that he had had some excellent conversations with A-Rod that helped them define the plan that will be best for both parties.
“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will continue to be a part of our organization going forward and transitioning into a role in which I know he can excel,” Steinbrenner said in an official statement.
While the general manager, Brian Cashman, highlighted the figure of leader that Rodríguez always had within the team.
“He has always been a leader and a mentor, so we are convinced that he will be of great help to us in the future as an advisor,” said Cashma, the architect of the new team renovation.
Earlier this week, Rodríguez spoke of his future without detailing what it would entail.
“I think I can contribute. I think I can help in the locker room,” Rodríguez stressed. “But if not, I have two beautiful daughters waiting for me in Miami.”
On Friday, the Yankees called a press conference with the 36-year-old first baseman, Mark Teixeira, who announced that he will retire at the end of this season, another sign that the changing of the guard has reached the historic Yankees.EFE