It started before the All-Star break; Alex Rodriguez was losing playing time for a New York Yankees team that was not only fighting to stay whole, but also desperately needed offensive help. One year after surprising just about everyone with a rejuvenated hitting performance, Rodriguez was being passed over for anyone else manager Joe Girardi could find in the dugout.
The Yankees conceded the season by selling their top MLB assets, professing to turn to young players the rest of the way, leaving many to believe that Rodriguez's time with the club is ending well before his contract does.
Rodriguez, owed just under $7.13 million for the rest of this season and $21 million for 2017, so this is not a pittance for Hal Steinbrenner to fork over for no return. It would be very much out of character for the Yankees to pay down on an uncompleted contract, but right now Rodriguez is a cheerleader; and rightfully so.
In 234 plate appearances, Rodriguez is batting .204 with a .252 on-base percentage and a .356 slugging percentage. Rodriguez has nine home runs and 29 RBIs on the season. Rodriguez's performance this season is very different from the superb numbers he put up in 2015 - .250/.356/.486, 33 HR, 86 RBIs in 620 plate appearances.
The talk of Rodriguez's potential release has caught on like wildfire, to the point that he has had to comment on it as well. Rodriguez was level-headed in his comments.
"I think I can contribute. I think I can help out in the clubhouse," Rodriguez said Tuesday, "but if not, I have two beautiful daughters waiting for me in Miami."
Rodriguez further stated, "No matter what happens, I'm at peace with myself."
As he has been since his return from the performance-enhancing drug suspension that cost him the 2014 season, Rodriguez has been saying all the right things where it concerns his playing time and future with the club. Rodriguez's positive, 'I'm just happy to be here' demeanor has grown on many people since his return from a yearlong suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy in 2014. Rodriguez may have enjoyed more love from fans the last two seasons than he did when he was belting 50+ home runs during his heyday.
Personally, I could never comprehend the love fest some bestowed him, but I did not begrudge it. Rodriguez has tried desperately to change - and seemingly did - becoming relatable for some fans. I completely understand why some despise Rodriguez, but I never felt my feelings for him needed to get to that point either.
When Rodriguez admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs (but only with the Texas Rangers), I was disappointed but I also fully believed that the game was infiltrated beyond what we all know, so I was not surprised. The suspension due to his involvement with a supplier of performance-enhancing drugs was disturbing and cemented in my head that his accomplishments no relevance when measured against others before the performance-enhancing drug era and those after it.
That said, when Rodriguez came back to the league last season, all I cared about what his performance on the field. I did not expect much offensive production - I actually felt he would provide what we are seeing this season. However, Rodriguez was fantastic and completely earned his 2015 salary. Rodriguez was so good, he entered his age-41 season with expectations to propel the Yankees back to the postseason.
What Rodriguez delivered last season was beyond what was reasonable to anticipate he could offer. When the production intertwined with this new lovable persona, the reincarnation of 'A-Rod the star' blossomed. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, the fall from grace has been just as abrupt and it has created a split in how fans perceive the possibility of Rodriguez's early release. With that in mind, I created a Twitter poll asking how fans felt about the circumstance.
#Yankees fans, how do you feel about A-Rod's potential release? Also taking comments; may be used in post. Please RT- Christopher Carelli (@Chris_Carelli) August 3, 2016
These are interesting results. I truly believed there would be more people upset with the notion that Rodriguez might be bought out of the remainder of his contract. In fact, the polling showed people are either ready for A-Rod to be out of the game, or understand that a release comes down to good business.
Some fans were quite clear that they would rather have had Rodriguez out of the game from the time he was suspended, or relatively soon, before milestones are reached.
@Chris_Carelli Should have done it while he was suspended. No one would have questioned it.- Chuck Johnson (@prospect_pulse) August 4, 2016
@Chris_Carelli Anything to keep him away from Babe's career home run total. I wouldn't enjoy seeing 700. It would just be awkward and silent- Scott Alfano (@lastchancealfy) August 3, 2016
Even those who proclaimed to "love" Rodriguez and to be "sad" about his impending fate had a difficult time arguing against it.
@Chris_Carelli Love A-Rod. Will be sad but it needs to happen. As part of the rebuild and youth movement, need to give others opportunities.- Shawn Sailer (@ShawnSailer) August 3, 2016
@Chris_Carelli honestly, I feel bad. But it's about production and he's just not where he used to be. He's also getting no opportunities- Allison Case (@ThatNYYChick) August 3, 2016
@Chris_Carelli I love A-Rod, but I'm realistic. He's coming to the end. But the team is going nowhere this year. Just let him finish 2016- Jessica (@FinnGirlJess) August 4, 2016
Rodriguez has made one start since July 22 and he was even pulled from a potential pinch-hitting situation earlier this week. Rodriguez found himself on the bench once again Wednesday, replaced at DH by Yankees' No. 5 prospect Gary Sanchez.
With Sanchez up and the Yankees' desire to give its prospects a chance to show their worth over the remainder of the season, it leaves little room for Rodriguez to make an impact. The more at-bats taken away from Rodriguez, the worse his timing becomes, which will continue adversely affecting his performance.
In my view, there is no reason to let this play out any longer, and embarrass him in the process. Rodriguez is not a part of the Yankees' present or future. He has become a vision of the past, one the Yankees have been trying to escape for years now. The Yankees proved by their trade deadline approach to be ready to embrace their future and their next step to that end is to release Alex Rodriguez.