Monday, August 8, 2016

A-Rod's Long Goodbye

Before I discuss the Yankees' weekend series with Cleveland, let me get the weekend's biggest story out of the way.

When the Yankees hold a press conference, memories always flash back, even for those of us not old enough to remember, to 1960. After the World Series, Casey Stengel read a prepared statement about his resignation, put it down, and said, "I guess this means they fired me."

There have been awkward moments with the Yankees and various players and managers since. The mishandlings of the firings of Yogi Berra (twice), Billy Martin (5 times), Dick Howser, Bucky Dent, Buck Showalter and Joe Torre. The Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich "wife swap" story. The various controversies around my guy Reggie Jackson. Sparky Lyle, in Graig Nettles' words, going "from Cy Young to Sayanora." The hair issues of Thurman Munson and Don Mattingly. The return of Roger Clemens.

No athlete in American history has made things as awkward for his team as Alex Rodriguez has for the New York Yankees. Being a narcissist is nothing new in sports. But between the postseason failures and the steroid controversies, has any athlete ever embarrassed his team more than A-Rod?

Yes, there was the 2009 season, when he put the Yankees on his back and carried them to the Pennant, before being a bit quiet in the World Series, but the Yankees won anyway. That season is the difference between A-Rod being an inconvenient superstar and being the biggest failure in the history of North American sports. Had the Yankees lost that World Series -- and they well could have, as the Philadelphia Phillies won Game 1 and were leading Game 2 at Yankee Stadium, and went on to be tied late in Game 4 and win Game 5 in Philadelphia -- A-Rod would have been the George W. Bush of ballplayers: Overhyped, disgraceful, and without the appropriate achievements. (Which, I suppose, marks October 2009 as his "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" moment.)

But the relationship between this player and this team has been "It's Complicated" from Day One. Now, Day Last is defined. This Friday, home to the Tampa Bay Rays, Alex Rodriguez will play his last major league game. Then, through the end of his contract on December 31, 2017 -- I've been posting it as October 31, but that's due to that being around the date that the 2017 World Series would end -- he will be a "special advisor" to the Yankees, making suggestions to the front office and being an instructor at spring training next March and through the minor league system.

While getting all the money still owed him between now and then. In other words, the Contract from Hell is extended 2 months more than I thought it would be.

But at least he'll never disappoint us on the field again.

A .295 lifetime batting average. 3,113 hits. 696 home runs. 2,084 runs batted in. 3 American League Most Valuable Player awards. 14 postseason appearances -- 9 with the Yankees, but only 1 Pennant, the 2009 World Championship.

And yet, more money paid to a player than any in history -- and more goodwill thrown away than by any player in history.

I wonder what will happen when the Yankees hand Number 13 out to another player. Because, let's face it, the 22 worn by Roger Clemens has gone back out, and Clemens did more for the Yankees than A-Rod did (4 Pennants and 2 World Championships). And don't count on a Plaque for him ever appearing in Monument Park.

For Tom Seaver with the Mets, Joe Namath with the Jets, and for Mark Messier with the Rangers, 1 World Championship was enough.

For Patrick Ewing with the Knicks, there were none, but they still love him.

For Don Mattingly with the Yankees, the failure to win even a single postseason series doesn't seem to matter.

For Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees, having won a World Series means he isn't a failure. But he hardly lived up to the hype, or the demand.

We will never have to watch him disappoint us again after Friday night. But not until January 1, 2018, when the Yankees will finally be able to pay that $26 million to other players, will we truly be able to say, in the words of the hymn that Martin Luther King liked to quote, "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Until then, A-Rod will be giving us what mystery writer Raymond Chandler called, in a 1953 novel that became a 1973 movie with former Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton playing a "playboy killer," called The Long Goodbye.

Actually, the expression was first used by Tennessee Williams for a play in 1940. Wow, even in that, A-Rod isn't what he seemed to be.

*

Days until the next Yankees-Red Sox series: 1, tomorrow night at 7:00, at Fenway Park.

Days until Alex Rodriguez' last game: 4, this Friday night at 7:00, at Yankee Stadium II.

Days until the New York Red Bulls play again: 5, this Saturday night at 7:00, home to the Montreal Impact. Last night, they took a 2-0 2nd-half lead away to the Los Angeles Galaxy, and futzed it up, ending with a 2-2 draw.

Days until The Arsenal play another competitive match: 6, this Sunday, at 11:00 AM U.S. Eastern Time, home to Liverpool. Yesterday, they played their final preseason friendly, beating Manchester City 3-2 in Gothenburg, Sweden.


Days until the Red Bulls next play a "derby": 13, against D.C. United on Sunday night, August 21, at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington. The next game against the New England Revolution is on Sunday night, August 28, at Red Bull Arena. The next game against the Philadelphia Union is on Saturday night, October 1, at Red Bull Arena. There are no further games this regular season against New York City FC, although Metro could face them in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Days until the U.S. national soccer team plays again: 25, on Friday, September 2, in a CONCACAF Qualifying Match for the 2018 World Cup, away to St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Less than 4 weeks. They should win, especially since they took on the best that Latin America had to offer in the Copa America, and reached the Semifinals before being knocked out by Argentina. This will be followed 4 days later by another Qualifier, against Trinidad & Tobago, at EverBank Field, home of the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars.

Days until Rutgers University plays football again: 26, on Saturday, September 3, away to the University of Washington, in Seattle.

Days until East Brunswick High School plays football again: 32, on Friday, September 9, away to Sayreville, a.k.a. Sewerville. Hell of a place to begin the season, even if the opposition wasn't good -- and, since 1990, they usually have been. 
A little over a month.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play again: 66, on Thursday night, October 13, away to the Florida Panthers in the Miami suburb of Sunrise. A little over 2 months. The home opener is 5 days later, on Tuesday night, October 18, against the Anaheim Ducks.

Days until the 2016 Presidential election: 92, on Tuesday, November 8. That's 13 weeks. Make sure you are registered to vote, and then make sure you vote!

Days until the next East Brunswick-Old Bridge Thanksgiving game: 108, on Thursday morning, November 24, at the purple shit pit on Route 9. Under  4 months.

Days until the New Jersey Devils play another local rival: 125. Their 1st game this season with the New York Rangers will be on Sunday night, December 11, at Madison Square Garden. Their 1st game this season with the Philadelphia Flyers will be on Thursday night, December 22, at the Prudential Center. By a quirk in the schedule, the New York Islanders, a team they usually play several times a season, don't show up on the slate until Saturday night, February 18, 2017, at the Prudential Center.

Days until The Contract From Hell runs out, and the Yankees no longer have to pay Alex Rodriguez any money: 510, on December 31, 2017.


Days until the next Winter Olympics begins in Pyeongchang, Korea: 550, on February 9, 2018.

Days until the next World Cup kicks off in Russia: 675, on June 14, 2018. A little under 23 months. The U.S. team will probably qualify for it, but with Jurgen Klinsmann as manager, particularly in competitive matches such as World Cup Qualifiers, rather than in friendlies, you never know.

Days until the next Summer Olympics begins in Tokyo, Japan: 1,446, on July 24, 2020.

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