Wednesday, August 10, 2016

J-Speaks: Tex and A-Rod Say Goodbye

For a long time, the New York Yankees have been one of the most recognizable and winningest franchises in baseball history, especially in the late 1990s and early and late 2000s. Those recognizable players that led the “Bronx Bombers” to World Series titles include future Hall of Famers, who also were known as the “Core Four” Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte. Over the last few years, we have said goodbye to the “Core Four,” with Jeter being the last to retire after the 2014 season. In just the last few days, the most polarizing Yankee in a long time and a former prize free agent from a few years ago announced that they are going to hang up their pinstripes.

It all started this past Friday when Yankees’ first baseman Mark Teixeria, who signed with the team back on Jan. 6, 2009, announced that his 14th year in the majors would be his last.

Throughout the press conference, the three-time All-Star shed tears on several occasions at Yankee Stadium with many of his teammates on hand.

“After 14 years, it’s time for me to do something else. After this season, I’m going to retire and do something else, “Teixeria said.

“But this felt like it was the right time for me to step away from the game. I want to finish this season on a high note. I know my teammates want to finish this season on a high note. We’re going to do everything we can to win games and leave it all out there. That’s one of the reasons I’m announcing this now. I don’t want to be a distraction. I know we’re a team in transition, but I don’t want to be a distraction, and I don’t want anyone to think that I’m thinking about next year or my future, because this is it. This is it for me.”

A little over two days later, an unexpected retirement was announced as the Yankees’ most controversial player Alex Rodriguez announced that at weeks end, which is this Friday will be his last game as a member of the team.

The 41-year-old third baseman/shortstop, who also played for the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers in his 21-year career, with the last 12 in New York talked about the challenges he has faced over the past few years both on and off the baseball diamond.

The retirement of A-Rod was something that had been going around the Yankees organization the past few weeks and it all came to ahead at the start of the week, with the farewell of the 14-time All-Star and three-time American League MVP this Friday at Yankee Stadium versus American League East rival the Tampa Bay Rays. After that he will be released by the team.  

“I want to thank mom, whose watching at home and my daughters. Thank you for your support. You’ve been through so much with me,” Rodriguez said on Sunday as he was holding back tears.

Following his finale in pinstripes, Rodriguez will be released by the team and in a big surprise will move into a new role as Special Advisor and Instructor to Young Players of the Yankees.

According to A-Rod, the idea was first brought to the 10-time Silver Slugger Award winner by Yankees’ Managing Partner Hal Steinbrenner earlier this week. Rodriguez also said that he was not given an ultimatum by the organization to accept this role or that he would be given his walking papers, which was reiterated at Sunday’s press conference by general manager Brian Cashman.

“Based on listening to both of them, can I tell you my guess would be I don’t think it would be a forced situation? I think you got to take Alex’s word for that as well.”

Cashman also said that Rodriguez would be paid the remainder of the 2015 season and a total of roughly $21 million next season, which is the final of the 10-year $275 million contract he signed on Nov. 15, 2007 as he slides into his new position.

When a player reaches the end of their career we take a look back to see what brought them to this point of saying goodbye to the game they gave their blood, sweat and tears to.

For Teixeria, it was the injuries he has sustained over the past few years, which has caused his numbers to decrease.

Seven years ago, he officially signed an eight-year $180 million contract on Jan. 6, 2009 his 39 home runs and 122 runs batted in were a major reason he finished second in the AL MVP balloting of that season.

The last few years for Teixeria have been marred by injuries so much so that he has not played in more than 123 games over the past five seasons, which includes just 15 appearances three seasons back due to surgery on his wrist.

He continues to battle the injury bug with the latest aliment being torn cartilage in his right knee, which he says will require surgery. At the 77-game mark coming into the Yankees most recent action during the week, he was batting just .177 with 10 homers, 27 RBIs and head scratching .627 on base percentage. This is on the heels of what Teixeria said back in spring training that he would like to play in the majors for five more years.

“I was far from perfect… But I gave everything I had,” Teixeria, who said out the finale of the “Subway Series” with the Mets because of a sore shin he sustained by getting hit from a pitch by Steven Matz the night prior last week said. “It wasn’t always enough, but I tried my best.”

In the case of Rodriguez, the back nine of his career with the Yankees has come from things that were in his control.

Back in 2009, it was discovered that A-Rod tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), which he admitted to doing from 2001-2003 after a report in the Feb. 7, 2009 edition of Sports Illustrated where Rodriguez’s name appeared on a government sealed list of 104 major leaguers tested positive.

His alleged frosty relationship with the most beloved Yankee in Jeter; his inability to perform in the postseason where many Yankee legends names are forged and many other forms of drama defined Rodriguez’s time with the team.

With that being said, it is those lessons he had to learn the hard way, which included being suspended for the entire 2014 season by Major League Baseball can help him in his new role.

“For a guy like me that’s been to hell and back and made every mistake in the book, I think they can learn equally from all the mistakes I’ve made and hopefully not make them,” Rodriguez said.

There is one thing that both Teixeria and Rodriguez can hang their hats on in their career as Yankees, they did help the team win the World Series in 2009. While it was their only one in their time with the “Bronx Bombers,” it was one more that they had in their entire careers up to that point.

Most great players in MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA do not even get one and they were able to help lead the Yankees to one.

What makes it even more special is that they accomplished that for an organization that is expected to win, especially when “The Boss,” the late great George Steinbrenner was breathing.

“There’s something about the Yankees and once I put on the pinstripes, I just felt it, I understood it,” Teixeria said.

Nobody understood more than the fans, who had great appreciation for both players, especially A-Rod despite all the self-inflicted drama. They said as much to WCBS2’s Brian Conybeare this past Sunday.  

“It’s sad to see him go. I’m in mourning today,” one lady fan said this past Sunday.

“I’ve been a Yankee’s fan all my life and probably my favorite player would be him [Rodriguez],” a young boy said.

“If it’s not working out for him to remain playing for the Yankees as a team, then having him as an advisor for the young up and comers is awesome,” Michelle Amin of Livingston, NJ said.   

The next question for both Teixeria and Rodriguez is are they going to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame one day in Cooperstown, NY?

While the numbers for Teixeria of 404 homers, 1,839 hits, 402 doubles, 1,282 RBIs and .269 hitting percentage are solid, they do not jump off the page. Also he was not a game changer to the point where you do not remember a certain play in a big game where he made the difference, like what Jeter did many times.

Meaning, he did not have many more jump out of your chair moments like when he hit a walk-off home run against the Minnesota Twins in the 2009 American League Division Series.

In the case of Alex Rodriguez, his numbers are remarkable with 696 homers, 2,084 RBIs, 547 doubles, a .295 hitting percentage and a .550 slugging percentage.

To put the amazing talent of Rodriguez displayed on the baseball diamond into perspective, he likely will finish just four homers shy of 700. They only other players to hit 700 balls out of the ball park in MLB history are Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (714), Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron (755) and Barry Bonds (762), whose call to Cooperstown, NY may or may not come because of his involvement in the 2003 BALCO scandal which alleged that he took steroids, even though it was never proven.

His obstacle of getting into the Hall of Fame are the fact that he used PEDs, which has also kept the likes of Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro from getting into the Hall and the fact that with all his great skill he never put the Yankees or the Texas Rangers or Seattle Mariners over the top in terms of winning titles.

In 48 hours the Yankee faithful will be saying goodbye to Alex Rodriguez the player and at season’s end, they will be saying goodbye to Mark Teixeria.

These were players that when they signed in 2004 and 2009 respectably were supposed to lead the Yankees to multiple championships for many years. Because of injuries, inconsistency on and off the diamond, particularly for Rodriguez they only won one title. They did bring an excitement to New York. They left it all on the diamond and gained an appreciation for what it meant to wear and represent one of the greatest franchises in pro sports history.

“I’ve been lucky enough to play for the Yankees, the greatest organization in sports history,” Teixeria said. “What I’ll take from my time here is an unbelievable city, a great fan base, World Championship and a lot of winning.”

“This is a tough day. I love this game and I love this team and today I’m saying goodbye to both,” Rodriguez said on Sunday morning.

Information, statistics and quotations are courtesy of 8/6/16 New York Daily News article "Tex Message: Cry and Dry," by John Harper; 8/7/16 6:30 p.m. edition of “CBS 2 News at 6,” with Jessica Moore, reports from Mark Morgan and Brian Conybeare;;;;;;;  

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