MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

It’s over: final hit-out for A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez – one of the most prolific and polarising figures in baseball history – to end his career with the New York Yankees

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 12:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2016, 12:09am

Alex Rodriguez will play his final major league game on Friday with the New York Yankees and then become a special adviser and instructor with the team.

Rodriguez and the club made the announcement before Sunday’s home game against Cleveland.

“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team,” he said, often choking up. “And today I’m saying goodbye.”

A-Rod will play against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium on Friday night before ending his career as one of the most prolific and polarising figures in baseball history.

The 41-year-old designated hitter, a three-time AL MVP and 14-time All-Star, is hitting .204 this season with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. His worsening slump finally relegated him to the bench for most of the past month, with Rodriguez getting only one start and seven at-bats in 14 games since July 22 – he was not in the starting line-up on Sunday against the Indians.

With Brett Gardner, Brian McCann and his teammates in attendance at a packed news conference, Rodriguez said he was thankful he’d get a few more at-bats in front of family and friends.

“We all want to keep playing forever,” Rodriguez said. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

When the fourth-place Yankees (55-55) traded veterans Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova leading up to last Monday’s trade deadline, they made it clear they were turning toward a youth movement.

Rodriguez has 696 home runs and trails only Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) on the all-time list.

After Rodriguez’s last game, he will be unconditionally released by the club and he’ll go back home to Florida. He said he thought his off-the-field duties would begin at spring training next year in Tampa.

Rodriguez has a US$20 million salary this year and is owed US$20 million more in 2017, the final season of a US$275 million, 10-year contract that was the baseball’s largest when he signed it. He’ll get that full amount.

“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain a part of our organisation moving forward and transition into a role in which I know he can flourish,” said Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

Said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman: “He’s always been a leader and mentor.”

Rodriguez said: “No matter what happens, I’m at peace with myself.”

Rodriguez helped the Yankees win the 2009 World Series but had been in repeated controversy since he arrived ahead of the 2004 season in a trade with Texas.

He won his second and third AL MVP awards with the Yankees but has been a pariah for some since his 2009 admission he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas earlier in his career.

Starting in 2008, Rodriguez made six trips to the disabled list in six seasons for a strained right quadriceps (2008), right hip surgery (2009), a strained left calf (2010), right knee surgery (2011), a broken left hand (2012) and left hip surgery (2013).

Major League Baseball suspended him on August 5, 2013 for the remainder of that season and all of 2014 for violations of baseball’s drug and labour contract caused by use and possession of numerous prohibited performance-enhancing substances and attempting to cover up his violations.

Rodriguez said he’s “been to hell and back”.

Rodriguez returned from hip surgery and played while appealing against the suspension, and the following January an arbitrator cut the penalty to all of the 2014 season.

“He’s always had some ups and downs, but he’s always gotten back up,” Cashman said.