Calling it a “tough day” but also a “proud” one, a tearful Alex Rodriguez announced Sunday morning that hes playing his final big-league game Friday at Yankee Stadium against Tampa.
Starting next spring training, he will assume an advisory role and report directly to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.
A-Rod is stuck on 696 home runs and described his last month essentially fastened to the bench as “very painful and embarrassing.”
He will collect all of the approximately $27 million left on his 10-year contract. Officially, the 41-year-old will be unconditionally released Friday.
“We all want to play forever,” Rodriguez said during a news conference attended by the entire Yankees’ roster. “Accepting the end gracefully is part of being a professional athlete.”
Rodriguez said the decision to retire wasn’t forced on him by Steinbrenner — though occasionally his comments suggested he felt compelled to accept the owner’s offer. He finalized the retirement plans with Steinbrenner on Aug. 3.
“Alex has already proven to be a willing and effective mentor to many players who have come through our clubhouse, and I am confident that this next phase of his baseball life will bring out the best in Alex and the next generation of Yankees,” Steinbrenner said in a statement.
Some A-Rod fans aren’t so sure, though.
“A great player shouldn’t go out like he’s going out,” said Mark Schol, 66, a Floridian who took a flight up to watch the Yankees play against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.
He called Rodriguez a “team player” who helped shine a spotlight on the Bronx and the Yankees franchise, particularly after he helped lead them to the 2009 World Series title.
Sporting A-Rod’s #13 jersey outside Yankee Stadium yesterday, Eddie Rodriguez, 30, agreed that he deserved better.
“I was watching the conference, and it felt like he was pushed into it,” the Queens Village resident said. “It bothered him to the leave the game.”
After his release, Rodriguez will sign a new contract to serve as an instructor for younger players until Dec. 31, 2017.
“This is another way I can bring value to the franchise,” Rodriguez said. “I’m 41 years old, I played 22 years in the major leagues. That’s half my adult life. I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences, good and bad, with the young kids.”
This season, Rodriguez has hit nine home runs in only 62 games, with just seven plate appearances since July 29.
Rodriguez’s legacy is complicated. Many consider him to be one of the greatest players of all time, but his associations with performance-enhancing drugs and a season-long suspension in 2014 have also tainted his career.
Sean Core, a marketing manager from Astoria, Queens, said baseball players are expected to set an example.
“The Yankees have a code of conduct, and I think over his career he hasn’t lived up to those expectations,” said Core, 30.
At the same time, Core added, “he did a lot for us. He’s still a Yankee.”
Clad in Yankees apparel on Sunday, Amanda Gordils, 20, said she wasn’t surprised when she heard the news of Rodriguez’s retirement.
“I get people being mad. I get him leaving,” she said.
Ronald Dixon, 35, said the PED scandal doesn’t take away from A-Rod’s legacy.
“He got us a championship,” Dixon said. “He did the job for us as far as the Yankees.”
Whether or not Rodriguez will be voted into the Hall of Fame in 2022 remains to be seen.
“I do want to be remembered as someone who’s madly in love with baseball,” Rodriguez said at the press conference. “Hopefully I’ll be remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot but kept getting up.”