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A Bronx Tale (cont.)

Posted: Friday March 7, 2008 2:47PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 9:06PM
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Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod won his third AL MVP award in 2006 after hitting .314 with 54 HRs and 156 RBI.

After A-Rod opted out of his original record $252-million contract, he still wasn't thinking much about the six teams that were chasing him. He mostly worried that his chance to remain a Yankee was gone, and that he was again being portrayed as a money-hungry mercenary. "I'm getting buried in the press. Everybody's saying I'm greedy. The MVP will mean nothing,'' A-Rod would tell friends at that time. To the surprise of some, he didn't have the unyielding gut it would take to carry out the entire opt-out strategy.

"Proving my loyalty to the Yankees was very important to me,'' Rodriguez said to SI.com.

A-Rod took the biggest hits for the timing of his opt out (which occurred during Game 4 of the World Series), although Boras accepted responsibility for it. The thinking was that by doing it well before his Nov. 10 deadline, it allowed other teams to consider him first (and gave the Yankees extra early incentive to get something done). Had he waited, other big-market teams may have assumed he was staying and quickly snapped up other available stars, such as Cabrera.

Boras felt the Yankees needed to be shocked. And while the opt-out did that, it apparently also shocked A-Rod. Rodriguez understood he'd be opting out, but he didn't plan on the quick negative reaction by fans, media, and especially by the Yankees, including new boss Hank Steinbrenner, who publicly said the Yankees were done with A-Rod. "Good-bye,'' Steinbrenner announced on opt-out night.

Perhaps unwittingly, that comment may have lined the path for a surprise return, because several days after Hank blew up, A-Rod reversed course.

Rodriguez and Boras had believed that the Yankees needed to see, 1) that A-Rod was willing to leave, a serious concern since Boras thought A-Rod tipped his hand too much throughout his glorious 2007 season, and, 2) that others were willing to pay much more. Boras always believed the Yankees would get back in and pay the market rate, which he felt was 10 years for at least $300 million, for the three-time MVP with as much marquee power as home-run power -- but only after he opted out and gave them a reason to.

A-Rod and his close coterie of mostly Miami confidants apparently agreed that he shouldn't jump at the eight-year, $220-$230 million deal that Yankees GM Brian Cashman had told A-Rod and Boras was the team's ceiling.

Rodriguez couldn't take the lonely waiting game for more than a few days, and he called his own audible, going back to the Yankees without Boras. The real story of how he got back with the Yankees is probably only known for sure by him. But it's been told a few different ways, depending upon the teller.

One story has A-Rod starting the ball rolling by telling John Mallory, a Goldman Sachs bigwig A-Rod knew from Miami, that he wanted back (Goldman Sachs owns a significant portion of YES Network). Another has A-Rod's wife, Cynthia, in contact with Yankees-connected people she knew.

In any case, Rodriguez and Yankees president Randy Levine went to work on a deal soon after A-Rod made it clear to someone who counted that he wanted to go back. Levine always realized the value A-Rod brought to the franchise and the YES Network and quickly told A-Rod, who pressed immediately for the 10-year deal Boras always sought, "I'll give you the two (extra) years."

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