Slugger Gets Emotional With Reporters, Says He Loves Baseball And Is 'At Peace' With Organization's Decision

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fighting back tears, Alex Rodriguez announced Sunday that he will retire from baseball after Friday’s game.

The three-time MVP will officially be released from his player contract and then will assume a role as a special adviser and instructor with the Yankees. Rodriguez’s contract as a special adviser will run through Dec. 31, 2017.

As CBS2’s Mark Morgan reported, A-rod choked back tears as he addressed fans.

“This is a tough day. I love this game, and I love this team, and today I’m saying goodbye to both,” Rodriguez said at a news conference. “This is also a proud day. I was 18 when I broke into the big leagues. I never thought I could play for 22 years. At 18, I just wanted to make the team.

PHOTOS: Alex Rodriguez’s Yankees Years

“I want to thank the Steinbrenner family for giving me this opportunity and for making me part of this team and for giving me an opportunity to stay involved and mentoring the next generation of the Yankees,” Rodriguez added.

His swan song will be held Friday at Yankee Stadium against the Tampa Bay Rays.

“After spending several days discussing this plan with Alex, I am pleased that he will remain a part of our organization moving forward and transition into a role in which I know he can flourish,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. “We have an exciting group of talented young players at every level of our system. Our job as an organization is to utilize every resource possible to allow them to reach their potential, and I expect Alex to directly contribute to their growth and success. Baseball runs through his blood.”

Rodriguez is owed $20 million in 2017, the final season of his $275 million, 10-year contract. General manager Brian Cashman said A-Rod will be paid the remainder of his contract.

The decision comes as Rodriguez sits four home runs shy of the elite 700-home run club. The 41-year-old slugger also has 3,114 hits, 2,084 RBI, 2,021 runs, and 329 stolen bases during his 22-year career.

A-Rod said Steinbrenner initiated the discussions about concluding his playing career. Rodriguez said he believes he can still play, but “that wasn’t in the cards. That was the Yankees’ decision.”

“No athlete ever ends his career or her career the way you want to,” Rodriguez said. “We all want to keep playing forever. But it doesn’t work that way. Accepting the end gracefully is part of being a professional athlete. Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job, but that’s what I’m doing today.”

A-Rod said he was not given any kind of ultimatum to accept the new role or be released.

Cashman said he doesn’t think Steinbrenner forced A-Rod’s hand.

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

The question coming into the 2016 season was whether the Yankees would get another productive season from Rodriguez. Last season, his first after sitting out all of 2014 due to an MLB-imposed suspension for his role in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal, A-Rod shocked many by hitting 33 homers and driving in 86 runs. 

However, the three-time AL MVP tailed off dramatically after the All-Star break and showed only brief glimpses of himself in September as the Yankees qualified for the playoffs, but were eliminated in the wild card game by the Houston Astros.

Since Aug. 7 of last season, Rodriguez is hitting .196 with 119 strikeouts in 383 at-bats.

Rodriguez has just nine homers and 29 RBI in 62 games this season, and has just seven at-bats since July 22. Part of the reason for his benching is his .204 average, but the Yankees (55-55) have also made it clear they are preparing for some version of a youth movement.

With the odds of securing a playoff berth getting longer by the day, the Bombers shipped out Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline and received 10 prospects, including some position players with serious promise.

As they play out the string this season, the Yankees plan on calling up a bunch of players from the minors to see who may be ready to contribute as early as next year. It started with young catcher Gary Sanchez, who is hitting .333 (5-or-15) with three RBI over the last four games as the designated hitter in place of A-Rod.

Rodriguez’s link to performance-enhancing drugs will forever be a blemish on an otherwise stellar career and could be the roadblock that keeps him out of the baseball Hall of Fame.

“I do want to be remembered as someone who is madly in love with the game of baseball, someone who loves it at every level, someone who loves to learn, teach it, watch it, play it, coach it,” Rodriguez said. “And also I’m going to be hopefully remembered for someone who tripped and fell a lot, but someone who kept getting up.”

When Cashman was asked how A-Rod should be remembered, he removed his 2009 World Series ring.

“That doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex’s contributions — significant contributions,” Cashman said. “Obviously he’s had a very exciting career, one filled with some ups and downs clearly.”

As for Rodriguez’s legacy, Girardi said he knows the player he had for all those years.

‘I think Cash said we all have our issues. We’ve all made our mistakes. Some are on a grander scale. Some are more covered than others,” Girardi said. “When you’re a superstar athlete, everything you do is going to be covered. Managing him, it wasn’t complicated. Because my job as a manager is to get the most of out of players. Alex had what I want everybody to have in life. He had a passion for something, and that passion was for baseball.

“Alex had a love for what he did. So, to me, that made it easy to manage because he worked and he worked and he worked and always tried to get the best out of himself and others,” Girardi added.

A-Rod said after Friday night’s game he would head to Miami to be with his family, and then focus on helping young Yankees in the offseason and spring training.

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