New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, a three time MVP, 14-time All-Star and one of the most talented and controversial players in baseball history—and the epic Ethics Corrupter who has been criticized on Ethics Alarms more than any other sports figure!— announced that he will play his final major league game next Friday. For his 20 million dollar salary this year, “A-Rod” is hitting only .204 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs in 216 at-bats. He can’t play in the field anymore, and any normal player of his age (41) and diminished skills would have been released long ago. (Indeed, any normal player of his age and diminished skills would have quit.) The team, however, is obligated to pay Rodriguez’s 20 million annual salary not only this year, but also the next. This makes him untradeable as well as too expensive to release.
Of course, if a player voluntarily ends his relationship with a team by retiring, he waives the rest of his contract. Many players have done that when they reached the point in their careers where they were no longer helping the team, taking the place of a better young player on the roster, and embarrassing themselves. None of those players, however, would be forfeiting 27 million dollars, the current tab the Yankees are contractually obligated to pay A-Rod as the final lap of a $275 million, 10-year contract that was baseball’s largest in 2007.
Nevertheless, forfeiting the money is what an ethical player should do. He’s not earning it. Rodriquez has made more than a half-billion dollars in his career, not counting various endorsement fees and bonuses. His two children are guaranteed to be tycoons many times over. He has lots of money, but very little accumulated good will or respect, as a confessed steroid cheat (he was suspended for the entire 2014 season for PED use and a cover-up) and is one of the most disliked players in any sport. Retiring as a straightforward admission that he is no longer able to play and has been hurting his team and team mates would have been the ethical course—a sacrifice, but not much of one.
This was obviously a negotiated exit, proposed by the Yankees. When the fourth-place team with scant play-off hopes traded four established veterans last month, it was clear that A-Rod was on the block, despite needing only four more home runs to join fellow PED-hound Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) as the only baseball sluggers to reach 700 dingers. He wasn’t going to get the at-bats to do it, though, so the team offered him a dignified exit. He could “retire,” but would really be handed an unconditional release. After Rodriguez’s last game, he will be dropped off the roster by the club and collect his huge pay checks by staying at home to Florida. Starting next season, he will become the highest paid “special adviser and instructor” who ever lived, as the Yankees try to get something for their 20 million.
“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 in a statement.
Right. Translation: “We are thrilled that we will finally get this albatross off our necks. It’s 27 million down the drain that we could be using to improve the team, but at least Rodriguez won’t be wasting a roster spot.”
It didn’t have to be that way, but given what we have learned about Alex Rodriguez over the years, I guess it did.
It’s funny: I distinctly remember the day, long ago, when I thought to myself, “Well, at least Alex Rodriguez will top Barry Bonds’ tainted career home run total, and we’ll have a clean, honest, honorable home run king again.”