Barry M. Bloom

A-Rod's announcement caps emotional week for Yanks

Trades and retirements have Bombers focusing on club's future

A-Rod's announcement caps emotional week for Yanks

NEW YORK -- The most emotional seven-day period in recent Yankees history ended on Sunday with the retirement of Alex Rodriguez, effective after Friday night's game against the Rays at Yankee Stadium.

During that short period, clubhouse favorites Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran were traded, and Mark Teixeira also announced his retirement at the end of the season.

How emotional was the week? The usually staid Joe Girardi started choking back tears when he was asked how he's handled it. After all, these are players the Yankees' manager loved, respected and nurtured -- investing enormous time in their production and well-being.

Girardi on Yankees' tough month

"It's been a tough week," Girardi said, stopping to compose himself. "It's been a tough month, for a lot of different reasons. We can talk about the Trade Deadline. We can talk about Tex and what he meant to this organization. As I said [on Saturday], Tex is the kind of player everybody wants to manage. To lose guys like that, it's hard.

Teixeira announces retirement

"Alex has meant a ton to me. Obviously, he's been a hot topic every day. It's not an easy topic to talk about. So it's taken its toll."

Girardi has been there before. During his nine-year managerial tenure, he's presided over the retirements of the Core Four from 2011-14: Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter.

They all are expected to return next Saturday for the reunion of the 1996 World Series-winning team, the club that began its run of four World Series titles and six American League pennant winners in eight seasons.

A plaque will be dedicated on Sunday to the great Rivera out in Monument Park. Couple that with A-Rod's last game on Friday night, and it should be a tremendous weekend of teardrops and nostalgia.

And then, as reality usually dictates, the Yanks will spin forward into what the organization hopes will be the beginning of a new, productive era.

That fact was irreconcilably consecrated by the changes in the roster during the past week.

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"I think the game tells you when it's time to go," general manager Brian Cashman said on Sunday. "That's how we try to use our evaluating tools in the Minor Leagues. When are some of the young guys going to be ready? The game always dictates who belongs at the next level and who's phased [out] and who will stay. If you kick back and let it happen, this great game will show you and tell you the direction that's necessary."

For the Yankees as a club, and Rodriguez in particular, the transition process really began to play itself out over the past calendar year.

After the games of July 31, 2015, the Yanks led the Blue Jays by six games in the AL East. They played 27-21 baseball the rest of the way and lost the division by six games. The season ended with the offense in a funk and eight losses in the last nine games -- including a home loss to the Astros in the AL Wild Card Game.

This season, with virtually the same roster, the Yankees opened 8-16, their worst start since 1984. They scrapped their way out of that hole, but they have leveled off all season as a near-.500 team.

For A-Rod, his 2016 numbers notwithstanding, the malaise that began the tailspin toward the end of his career, also began just a little over a year ago.

Since Aug. 1 of last season, Rodriguez is a .198 hitter with 18 homers and 44 RBIs. This season, he's batting .204, but there's a tale even behind those numbers. A right-handed hitter, this season, A-Rod is hitting .196 with a .596 OPS against right-handed pitchers, and he has only hit just two of his nine homers at Yankee Stadium.

After struggling mightily for almost the first month of the season, Rodriguez began to get his footing at the end of April, only to strain his right hamstring running out a ground ball in Baltimore on May 3. He was never again able to adjust at the plate.

A-Rod leaves game with injury

Thus, Cashman and Girardi decided, in tandem, a couple of months ago to limit A-Rod's designated-hitter appearances to left-handed pitchers only. When he struck out four times in four appearances on July 30 against the Rays at Tropicana Field, that was the end of the road. The Yanks were swept in the three-game series, precipitating ownership to buy into the flurry of trades at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. And A-Rod hasn't played much since.

Rodriguez said the terms of his departure began to be negotiated at the urging of principal owner Hal Steinbrenner in the middle of this hectic week. A-Rod was well-versed on the reasons for it.

"You know, last year for our team and for me personally was a magical season," said Rodriguez, also openly crying at times during Sunday's news conference. "This season, we had big aspirations. We had ambitions to build on what we started last year. But baseball is a funny game. It's a difficult game.

"Once I started to swing the bat pretty well, I ran into an injury and missed about 21 games or so. And mechanically, I never felt like I caught up. I have a little over 200 at-bats [216] and I always felt that, with rest and with reps and with fixing some of my techniques, I would have a strong finish and a strong year next year. Again, that wasn't in the cards."

The aging process catches up with all baseball teams and the players that make up their rosters. And A-Rod has only recently turned 41. He's four homers shy of 700 as he heads into the last week of his 22-year career.

A-Rod's 696th career home run

The Yankees will move forward from this monumental week with an eye toward continually turning younger and remaining competitive.

Their 51-year-old manager, who said he cried his own eyes out when his 15-year career as a big league catcher ended in 2003, will make the best of it. He always does.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.