One of the oddest careers in sports history is fittingly ending in one of the oddest ways possible.
Alex Rodriguez will play his final game in a Yankees uniform this coming Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. A-Rod is set to become a “special advisor” to the Yankees next season, but it’s hard to imagine him playing pepper with Gleyber Torres every other day next spring in Florida – let alone having any sort of input in the Yankees’ front office decisions before his contract officially expires on Dec. 31, 2017.
Despite all the relative goodwill A-Rod has built up in the year-plus since he returned from his year-long suspension, the Yankees’ surely can’t wait until this coming Saturday morning when they no longer have to deal with No. 13. Saturday morning, they will be able to wash their hands clean of the mess that was A-Rod in New York.
Yes, A-Rod helped bring the Yankees a world championship in 2009 – but his arrival in the Bronx in February of 2004 more or less set the organization down a wrong road in which it has yet to reverse course on.
The Yankees were still the marquee team in baseball, if not all of sports, in February of 2004. They had just delivered the most severe non-Buckner blow to the rival Red Sox in the fall prior thanks to Aaron Boone, and it was still a birthright that the team would be representing the American League in the World Series every single fall.
In the 12 years since the A-Rod acquisition though, the previously pathetic Red Sox have won three World Championships and they look like they’re heading toward the postseason once again. The Tampa Bay Rays were consistently winning 90-plus games there for a while, too. The Toronto Blue Jays went to the ALCS last season, and the Baltimore Orioles are currently in first place in the division.
The Yankees not only lost their spot as the No. 1 organization in all of baseball, they lost their spot as the No. 1 team in the division along the way as well. Up until last week, you could truly make the case that Boston, Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay all had brighter futures than the Yanks.
The slow deterioration of the Yankees as a franchise is not all A-Rod’s fault, for sure. But when fans and hardball historians look back on this time period – A-Rod will be the figurehead of the decline of what once was the most powerful organization in North American sports.
The New York Yankees are supposed to be baseball’s bully. They are supposed to be Goliath. They are supposed to be great.
Alex Rodriguez, too, was supposed to be baseball’s bully. He was supposed to be Goliath, and he was supposed to be not only great – but the greatest.
His love of off-field drama, his love of performance-enhancing drugs and his love of himself, however, got in the way of him becoming the modern-day Babe Ruth that nearly everyone projected him to be 20 years ago when he was a member of the Seattle Mariners.
Mercifully, A-Rod’s sad and odd career is over come this Saturday morning. He’ll wind up fourth on baseball's all-time home run leaders list, just behind Ruth, but he’ll finish his career easily in first place in baseball’s all-time squandered potential category.