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Wed, June 26

Column: Highs and lows of A-Rod

Based on statistics, Alex Rodriguez is one of the greatest and most prolific players in MLB history. He is also one of the most polarizing and disliked players of his generation.

A-Rod’s playing career seemingly came to an end after he was unceremoniously released from his contract with the Yankees on Aug. 12. Because the 41-year-old had another year remaining on the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2007, the parties agreed to a new deal for the $6 million remaining this year and the $21 million owed for 2017. Under the terms of the agreement, A-Rod will be a special instructor and advisor for the team and report directly to managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner.

The new deal was designed to save face for both parties. Steinbrenner indicated as much, saying the Yankees wouldn’t stand in the way of A-Rod joining another organization. According to Steinbrenner, it’s a “very flexible situation,” which is code for saying the Yankees don’t really want A-Rod around and would like nothing better than to see him move on.

Thus ends a career with enough highs and lows to provide a script for a soap opera, which A-Rod’s career seemed to be. The highlights included arriving in the Majors with Seattle in 1994 as an 18-year old phenom, who lived up to every bit of hype that preceded him as the number one draft pick in the country in 1993. Unless he signs with another team, A-Rod ends his 22-year career with gaudy numbers that include three MVP awards, 14 All-Star Game appearances, 696 home runs (fourth all time), the all-time record for grand slams with 25, and 2,096 RBIs (trailing only Hank Aaron in that category). He will also amass over $420 million in career earnings (through 2017), an MLB record that will soon be broken by the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper.

The list of lows is topped by a suspension for the entire 2014 season related to his involvement in the Biogenesis performance enhancing drug scandal. That wasn’t his only brush with PEDs. In February of 2009, Alex admitted using PEDs for a three-year period beginning in 2001 when he was playing with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez blamed the pressure of living up to the $252 million contract he signed with Texas after becoming a free agent in 2000.

Although he put up huge numbers on the field, in addition to his reputation as a cheater Rodriguez’ baggage also included a penchant for drama and bush-league play. While running to first base during the 2004 playoffs against the Red Sox, he slapped the ball out of the glove of Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who was trying to tag him out. In a 2007 game against Toronto, A-Rod yelled “Ha, I got it!” at Blue Jays’ infielders while running the bases, causing the startled players to misplay an easy popup.

A-Rod became tabloid fodder for the New York media for his exploits off the field, where he was romantically linked to a long list of starlets including Madonna, Demi Moore, Kate Hudson and Cameron Diaz. In June, The Sporting News ranked Rodriguez as the third most-hated player in the game based on a survey of his peers.

But A-Rod also had a passion for the sport and was renowned as one of the hardest workers on and off the field. After the Rangers traded him to New York, he agreed to switch positions from shortstop to third base to accommodate icon Derek Jeter, even though A-Rod was clearly the better fielder. The contract he signed with the Yankees included bonus clauses for reaching certain milestones. But when he earned a $6 million bonus in 2015 for passing Willie Mays in home runs the Yankees balked at paying him. A-Rod agreed to allow the money to be donated to charity.

To his credit, A-Rod bowed out gracefully. Although he admitted that his “retirement” was the Yankees’ idea, he said, “I’m at peace with the organization’s decision.” When asked how he would like to be remembered, A-Rod said, “That’s not for me to say…I’m going to be hopefully remembered as someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone that kept getting up.”

His record suggests he’s right on both counts.

The author is a former attorney, CPA, Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a Professor in and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog: http://sportsbeyondthelines.com The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Jordan can be reached at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.

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