AFP New York
Mother Nature couldn’t put a complete damper on Alex
Rodriguez’s going away party yesterday as he revelled in his final New York Yankees game and possibly the last of his contentious career.
Thunder and lightning cut short a pre-game tribute but the ageing slugger provided the first fireworks of the night for the Yankees by smacking a RBI double in his first at-bat as New York beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3.
“It is going to be tough to top that. This is a memory I will own forever,” an emotional Rodriguez said.
But after the double, he went zero-for-three the rest of the night, displaying the batting struggles that led the Yankees to decide to release the former star in the middle of the 2016 Major League Baseball season.
After refusing Rodriguez’s request to start at third base, manager Joe Girardi allowed him to make a cameo appearance in the ninth inning. He then brought him out after one out as the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd stood and cheered.
“Some people think I wanted to make negative decisions,” Girardi said.
“But I have a huge heart. This is the last time he plays. I wanted it to be something.”
“I hope this is a good as it gets for him. He’s not going out a champion and he’s not going out on a 30-home run season. That’s my wish for every player that they get to go out the way they want,” Girardi added.
The 41-year-old Rodriguez will now be officially released, ending the Yankees’ playing career of one of the most successful yet controversial players of American baseball’s steroid era.
“I put the fans through a lot. I disappointed a lot of people but this feels good,” Rodriguez said after the game.
Rodriguez’s final game caps a tumultuous five days that started with an
emotional news conference last Sunday, when it was announced he would be released as a player.
He was given the option — and said yes — to becoming special adviser which starts next spring training.
Rodriguez said he doesn’t like to use the word retirement and he hasn’t rule out playing again but said it is unlikely.
“Retirement is synonymous with old,” he said. “I am 41. I am not that old. I try not to use it that much. I still think I can do some work, but I am not there right now. I am just going to enjoy tonight.”
Rodriguez’s final game with the Yankees was put on a one-hour hold because of a heavy downpour.
Minutes after Rodriguez’s pre-game ceremony began, the clouds opened up and thunder, lightning and driving rain sent officials, players, fans and Rodriguez’s family members scurrying for cover.
The ceremony began with a short video tribute of his career highlights as Reggie Jackson, Mariano Rivera, owner Hal Steinbrenner and his mother and daughters joined him on the field.
Rodriguez chuckled while standing with his daughters as the cloudburst boomed overhead. As a parting gift, Hal’s sister Jennifer Steinbrenner presented Rodriguez with a base signed by his teammates.
Rodriguez, who has twice admitted using performance-enhancing drugs, waved to the crowd but did not get a chance to speak as the downpour raged.
Rodriguez missed all of 2014 while on suspension for PED use in connection with baseball’s Biogenesis scandal.
“I worked hard at trying to comeback,” said Rodriguez. “If you look at my 22 years, if you look at the last two seasons this ending is what I am most proud of.”
Rodriguez is four home runs shy of 700 for his career.
He has two homers since June 3, leaving his career total at 696. He trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the career list.
Rodriguez announced in March that he intended to retire at the end of 2017. Instead of waiting, the Yankees forced his hand as part of their ongoing a roster overhaul.
Rodriguez has a $20 million salary this year and is owed $20 million more in 2017, the final year of a $275-million, 10-year contract that was the baseball’s largest when he signed it.
His release will end a legendary but controversial career with the Yankees which saw him repeatedly embroiled in controversy since arriving in New York in 2004 from the Texas Rangers.
Much of the Yankees failures in his first few seasons with the team was placed on Rodriguez’s shoulders. In the eight years before he came to New York, the Yankees won four World Series and six pennants.
In Rodriguez’s first five years with the Yankees, they failed to reach the World Series even once. They also became the first major league team ever to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series in 2004.
Results (Home team in CAPS)
CHICAGO CUBS 13 St. Louis 2
Atlanta 8 WASHINGTON 5
PHILADELPHIA 10 Colorado 6
NY YANKEES 6 Tampa Bay 3
Houston 5 TORONTO 3
BOSTON 9 Arizona 4
Chicago White Sox 4 MIAMI 2
CLEVELAND 13 LA Angels 3
San Diego 8 NY METS 6
TEXAS 8 Detroit 5
Cincinnati 7 MILWAUKEE 4
Kansas City 7 MINNESOTA 3
OAKLAND 6 Seattle 3
Pittsburgh 5 LA DODGERS 1
Baltimore 5 SAN FRANCISCO 2
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