The New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez announced Sunday morning that he will play his final game at the end of the week, culminating a career in which the three-time MVP etched his name among the greatest in the sport’s history yet became a polarizing figure amid being suspended for a full season for steroid use.
Rodriguez’s farewell will take place Friday at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays. Following the game, he will be unconditionally released in order to sign a deal to become a special advisor with the club.
“This is a tough day. I love this game, and I love this team, and today I’m saying goodbye to both,” said Rodriguez as he choked back tears during a news conference at Yankee Stadium with his teammates in attendance. “Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job, but that’s what I’m doing today.”
Rodriguez ranks fourth all-time in home runs with 696, behind only Barry Bonds (762), Henry Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714), but the designated hitter hasn’t been in the lineup since Aug. 2, fueling speculation his career was reaching its end.
The five-time home run champion is hitting just .204 this season, and the Yankees (55-55) are in fourth place in the AL East, seven and a half games behind the division leading Baltimore Orioles and six games out of the wild card.
The Yankees play a three-game series against the arch rival Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park beginning on Tuesday. It’s unclear if Rodriguez will play in that series, but he said management has assured him he will get at least a few at-bats on Friday.
Manager Joe Girardi also didn’t rule out playing Rodriguez, who moved from shortstop to third base upon joining the Yankees in 2004, in the field in his swan song.
“I don’t think any player ever wants to get to this point,” Girardi said. “Alex talked about it. None of us ever wants to take the uniform off. It was easy to pencil his name in the lineup every day, hitting third and playing third base and never have 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.”
Rodriguez assembled 13 straight seasons of at least 100 RBI and 14 overall. In 2007, when he won his final MVP award, Rodriguez amassed 54 home runs, 156 RBI and 143 runs, leading the league in each category. Two years later, he won his first and only World Series ring as the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
The Seattle Mariners made Rodriguez, a two-time Gold Glove winner, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 draft. Several months later, he made his big league debut at 18. In 2000, Rodriguez signed a 10-year, $252 million deal, the largest in professional sports history, with the Texas Rangers.
In 2004, the Yankees acquired Rodriguez in exchange for second baseman Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named. The Rangers agreed to pay $67 million of the $179 million remaining on his contract. Three years later, Rodriguez signed with the Yankees for $275 million over 10 years, setting another record for the most lucrative deal in pro sports history.
In early February 2009, Rodriguez was linked to performance-enhancing drugs in a Sports Illustrated report. Several days later, he admitted to using PEDs.
Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season after an arbiter reduced the initial penalty of 211 games to 162 for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
“Hopefully I’ll be remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot but kept getting up,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s announcement is the latest move as the Yankees embark on a full rebuild. Among the significant moves General Manager Brian Cashman orchestrated at the trade deadline included trading relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, as well as slugger Carlos Beltran.
First baseman Mark Teixeira, meanwhile, announced he would be retiring at the end of the season. The five-time Gold Glove winner has been with the Yankees since 2009.
“Obviously he’s had a very exciting career, one filled with some ups and downs,” Cashman said. “I think he also spoke about someone who’s had his ups and downs, but he always got back up, and I think that’s really a true assessment of what he has done.
“The world we all live in, everybody makes mistakes, everybody has problems, everybody made a left turn when they should have made a right turn. It’s just what do you do 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 the coaches and tremendous with the front office and I think representing the franchise. Since his return, he’s been everything we’ve wanted.”