Alex Rodriguez will play the final game of his Yankee career Friday night – something that seemed unfathomable about a week ago.
“I think it was unexpected,” Rodriguez’s publicist, Ron Berkowitz, said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I mean, when Alex gave me a call last Wednesday and he said there’s some stuff brewing and then Friday it was like this is what we’re doing, I don’t think it was what we expected. I think he got what he wanted – and it was to play tonight in front of the fans.”
The Yankees (58-56) host the Rays (46-67) at 7:05 p.m. ET. Rodriguez, 41, is hitting .199 this season, but he would certainly would have preferred to play out the year.
“I don’t think he was thrilled with it,” Berkowitz said. “It wouldn’t be the way he scripted it to go down, but with him, it’s very rarely scripted. We adapt and we move on. I think it would have been great if he got some more swings in this week, but tonight, hopefully, will be a nice celebration for him. It was important to get his mom and his kids up here to see the last game. It happened so quick. I can’t speak on retirement, but he didn’t really have time to think about it. It was just there. I think it’s going to hit home tomorrow, Sunday and Monday really hard for him. This is what he’s done every day since he was 15.”
Rodriguez will become a special advisor to the Yankees, but with 696 home runs, it’s easy to envision him latching on with another team to chase 700.
“Honestly, I’m sure he does want to play,” Berkowitz said. “I think the right move is doing what he’s doing: go home, take some time, think about it. I’m sure somebody will call him. We’ve heard rumblings of different things, but I think he’s got so much to offer. He could be back doing games, he’s got a tremendous business career, he’s given 35 scholarships down in Miami to FIU and the University of Miami since 2004, when he was 29 years old, which people don’t know. We don’t really put that out there. That’s the type of things he likes to do. I think he’s going to thrive in this role in teaching those kids. You saw the Starlin Castro quote the other day where Castro said, ‘If he doesn’t tell me to swing at that first-pitch curve ball, I take the pitch instead of knocking in a double and two RBIs.’ It is his calling. He really can do that.”
Either way, Rodriguez will retire as one of the most decorated, if not disgraced, players in MLB history.
“I think the one thing about Alex that people don’t know is he watches and listens to everything,” Berkowitz said. “Some people have reported that and talked about it, but he really is aware of what goes on. He’s a really emotional person, as you saw last week, but he doesn’t wear it on his sleeve like that so you would never know. He would walk down the street and you would not know that a couple years ago. I think what you’d see now is if you walk down with him on the street is you’d see that. He loves to walk around New York City and he loves to talk to people and say hello and sign autographs and take pictures. These are the things he didn’t do four or five or six years ago that we thought it was important that you have to do.
“I think 50 percent of the people love Alex and 50 percent of the people hate Alex, and I think it’s always going to be like that,” Berkowitz continued. “I think it’s always been like that. So I don’t think he is calculating that. We decided there’s an image of him and how do we get that out there? That way to get that out there was just be yourself. That was the first thing. I really believe that. Obviously I work for the guy and it’s my job to sell that to you guys and to everybody that’s listening, but the truth is, when you sit down and talk to him, that’s what I really believe.”
Rodriguez arrived in New York in 2004. He didn’t exactly gel with Derek Jeter right away, but he did switch positions on his behalf.
“The guy came to New York and he moved to third base,” Berkowitz said. “He was the best shortstop in the game by far – by far – and he moved over and switched positions for the better of the team and for Derek. It’s one of those selfless acts that . . . kind of just goes untold a little bit, and then the guy became a Gold Glove third baseman. It’s pretty amazing. So I think when it comes to those two, they’re always going to be intertwined with everything that they do, but sometimes I think it’s blown up a little more too in the media.”
Berkowitz said that Rodriguez and Jeter have a cordial relationship.
“They talk,” Berkowitz said. “They don’t hang out per se. Last year, we were at the ESPY’s and Derek was there and they sat together for quite awhile and spoke and hung out at the after party. It’s one of those things. Everybody in the room (was watching them).”
In a way, the Yankees may have done Rodriguez a favor by forcing an unceremonious exit upon him. As hard as it is to feel sorry for a guy who has been suspended multiple times for performance-enhancing drugs, Rodriguez leaves New York in a somewhat sympathetic light.
“Since he’s come back, he’s been looked at in a sympathetic way,” Berkowitz said. “I think it’s a combination of things that have happened. Do I think it works out like that? Yeah. But do I think it’s the way he wanted it to work out? No, he’d much rather play and just keep going in that sense. But it’s worked its way in that direction.”