Good stuff today from Richard Justice -
Some of us thought A-Rod would change when he joined the Yankees. For the first time, he would not be bigger than the franchise. He’d be surrounded by players even more famous and part of a franchise that won before he arrived and would win once he departed.
The Yankees changed Roger Clemens, and not in a small way. He’d probably reject such a notion, but Clemens became a different guy with the Yankees. He was no longer the main player. Instead, he was part of something larger, and he understood it and absolutely loved it.
The Rocket misbehaved some early in his career, seemed to do things to draw attention to himself. Once he walked into the clubhouse doors at Yankee Stadium, he saw that it was no longer about him. It was about winning. It was about carrying himself a certain way.
He saw how Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte and Joe Torre conducted themselves. He saw there was no drama in the clubhouse. He saw that only one thing mattered. As a result, The Rocket had a great six seasons with the Bombers. He was a beloved and respected teammate. He did charity work, befriended cops and soldiers and competed like hell on the field.
He may not enter the Hall of Fame as a Yankee, but I’m guessing that in his heart and his soul he’s a Yankee.
For whatever reason, A-Rod never seemed to find that same comfort level with being a Yankee. He was constantly making missteps or doing things that called attention—many times negative attention—to himself. Some people may have disliked him intensely, but there seemed to be more who just never understood him.
He had a wonderful career arc written for him long ago. He was the kid who showed up at Miami Stadium and befriended Cal Ripken Jr. during Spring Training one year. He wanted to be like Ripken, who tried to do everything right, signing every autograph, preparing and performing in a way that would influence others in a way more powerful than words.
All great players have special needs, and so it has been with A-Rod. If this is the end of his career or the beginning of the end of his career, he’ll go out with people remembering all the wrong things about him, not that he was an incredibly gifted player, but that the attention too often wasn’t on his playing.
Whatever happens with A-Rod, I will say this: After his playing days are over, he’ll be done with baseball. They will never let him be part of team ownership or a front office. And, even if he was willing to manage or coach, which I doubt, no one will touch him.
Hopefully, he will go into retirement and never been seen again. Then again, if he ended up like O.J. Simpson someday, that would not shock me either…