Yet on Thursday, nearly two months after appearing to end his tenure in the Bronx, A-Rod made his return to pinstripes official with a deal that should keep him with the team until the age of 42.
"It seemed like the whole thing was a roller coaster," A-Rod said. "It was very emotional. It was very stressful. All along the line, I knew that I wanted to be a Yankee, and somewhere along the line, I took a couple wrong turns."
The deal is worth $275 million over 10 years, with a reported incentive package that could raise the total value as high as $305 million. A-Rod's new contract is by far the biggest in baseball history, eclipsing his own record set when he signed with the Rangers for $252 million before the 2001 season.
And the new deal is expensive for a reason. Rodriguez, 32, is coming off a historically good season in which he hit .314 with 54 home runs and a career-high 156 RBIs. So it came as no surprise last month when he easily won his third American League Most Valuable Player Award, eclipsing Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers by a sizable margin.
Rodriguez has averaged 43 homers in four seasons with the Yankees, batting well over .300 in two of them. This past season, he hit his 500th career home run with the Yankees, and he remains on pace to pass Barry Bonds and his 762 career homers sometime around 2013.
Yet despite all the success, there was reason to believe Rodriguez's time with the Yankees had ended during Game 4 of the World Series, when he opted out of the final three years and approximately $81 million remaining on his old deal. The Yankees -- most notably senior vice president Hank Steinbrenner -- repeatedly stated during the season that should A-Rod opt out, they wouldn't negotiate with him in free agency.
That's what made his decision so surprising. Not to mention the subsequent regret.
"I woke up the next morning and I was white as a ghost," Rodriguez said. "My want was always to become a world champion in New York. I have a lot to prove in New York."
But first, he had to prove all that to the Yankees. It was a process that involved spurning his agent, Scott Boras, and talking to Steinbrenner directly on the advice of friends -- billionaire Warren Buffet included.
"The whole thing was a mistake," Rodriguez said. "It was a huge debacle. It was very stressful, and to me it was a very humbling experience. I made a huge mistake."
He opted out because he didn't think the Yankees wanted him -- despite multiple reports during the World Series that the team requested and was denied an opportunity to negotiate a contract extension. Whether that was the fault of Rodriguez or Boras might never be clear, but its effects certainly were.
Rodriguez apparently wanted no part of the Yankees, and the Yankees publicly wanted no part of him.
And that's the line of thinking that prompted A-Rod to call Steinbrenner in an effort to mend their fractured relationship.
"I'm as proud of [making] the phone call as I am the MVP season," said A-Rod, who admits he wasn't sure how Steinbrenner would react.
"When I called Hank, if he hung up on me, I wouldn't have been surprised," A-Rod said. "I was ready for that. I thought my career was over with the Yankees."
It's not. Not even close. And now, A-Rod can look toward a new chapter in New York. He's accomplished just about everything he set out to do when he came to the Bronx four years ago, with one notable exception.
A-Rod -- like everyone else -- wants a ring. And he's confident the Yankees can help him win it.
"I feel so fortunate to be playing for the greatest franchise in the world," Rodriguez said. "That's what I've wanted all along. That's where I wanted to finish the career. My whole life has been a huge blessing and a dream."
Anthony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less