A Bronx Tale
Inside A-Rod's decision to return to the Yankees
Posted: Friday March 7, 2008 2:47PM; Updated: Friday March 7, 2008 9:06PM
TAMPA, Fla. -- A sextet of big-market teams were quietly lining up to bid for Alex Rodriguez in early November. Meetings were scheduled with both Los Angeles teams, the Dodgers and Angels, and according to people close to Rodriguez, the Mets, Red Sox, Giants and Tigers all were showing interest, as well. But A-Rod desperately wanted to remain a Yankee.
"Mentally, I never did see myself going anywhere else,'' Rodriguez said in a recent interview with SI.com.
While the six would-be big spenders were said to be demonstrating strong attention -- if not yet big-bucks deals -- for the slugger after his MVP season of 54 home runs, 156 RBIs and a .314 batting average, Rodriguez's heart wasn't in it. Based on the early interest, he believes he could have received more money elsewhere, surely somewhere north of $300 million guaranteed.
As it turns out, Rodriguez did get close to $300 million, but did it to stay where he was -- and where he wanted to be all along.
Rodriguez himself believes the bidding on the open market would have gotten "crazy" had he let it. While teams were not announcing their intentions, some of them have anonymously acknowledged they were in it to win it. One other club owner said he believed Tiger owner Mike Ilitch, bolstered by new casino riches, looked like a major threat to outbid anyone (although the Tigers' superb GM Dave Dombrowski's plan was to go for Miguel Cabrera instead, a plan that was realized with the Marlins blockbuster), and Ilitch's history of making big deals with agent Scott Boras made the Yankees fear the Tigers most.
While A-Rod was only envisioning himself as a Yankee, if he had to, he would have met with all six teams, more enthusiastically with some than others. A person close to A-Rod said he was concerned about San Francisco's chance to contend and his own chance to be happy in Detroit, and that person speculated that the most likely landing spot was Los Angeles, probably the Dodgers.
There are many who believed Rodriguez would be reluctant to rejoin Joe Torre, who publicly questioned A-Rod during a sometimes frustrating 2006 season and also criticized him for disrupting a Blue Jays fielder early in '07. However, Rodriguez said he and Torre have made their peace and he would have had no trouble reuniting with his former manager in L.A.
As is clear now, the real holdup was that A-Rod couldn't see himself anywhere but the Bronx. He went through some very rough times in New York, between fans booing and tabloids reporting on his persona life, and apparently he didn't see any of that as a deterrent. Just the opposite, it turns out.
"New York brings out the best in you. And the worst,'' Rodriguez said the other day. "You have to be able to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself I didn't want to go to a place and hide and have my weaknesses be swept away. New York has made me a better man. And it's made me a better baseball player.
"I love New York. My family loves New York. I love the Yankee family,'' he added. "I finally had gotten to a situation where I was feeling comfortable with everything there is to New York -- from the players to the coaches to the fans. My relationship with the fans has come full circle.''
That relationship is intact now that he has returned. But for a couple short weeks this winter, he worried that it was over - his Yankees career, his image and all that came with it.