Work in Sports
A-Rod, Piniella ponder their future in Seattle
NEW YORK (AP) -- This wasn't the way Alex Rodriguez and Lou Piniella envisioned their careers in Seattle ending.
Eight outs away from forcing a deciding seventh game in the AL Championship Series, Rodriguez and Piniella instead headed into free agency with another late-inning meltdown at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees, who used a seven-run eighth inning to tie the series in Game 2, scored six runs in the seventh Tuesday night, overcoming an early four-run deficit and win 9-7 in Game 6.
"I'm a little bit shocked," Rodriguez said. "My mind has been so consumed with beating the Yankees that I haven't thought about my situation."
Piniella and Rodriguez could only watch as David Justice's three-run homer off Arthur Rhodes landed into the upper deck at Yankee Stadium and ended the Mariners' hopes of reaching their first World Series.
And now the team that has endured the departure of its greatest pitcher and player the past two years must ponder the possible losses of its All-Star shortstop and the only manager who has taken Seattle to the postseason.
Rodriguez went 4-for-5 with a home run, but it wasn't enough.
"He tried to carry them himself in this game," said Derek Jeter, his close friend and rival.
Rodriguez is eligible for free agency after the World Series and is likely to become the sport's highest-paid player -- perhaps in New York with the Mets.
"My decision will take a little bit of time," Rodriguez said. "I'm going to test the free agent market. That doesn't mean Seattle isn't my first choice. I'm very proud of this organization."
Rodriguez singled with two outs in the ninth inning to bring the tying run to the plate. But Edgar Martinez grounded out to end the game. Rodriguez walked to the dugout with his head down, glancing back once or twice to the field.
A clubhouse attendant neatly folded his No. 3 Mariners shirts into a bag, worn for perhaps the last time.
Piniella's contract also ends after the season, and he could be headed back to Cincinnati to reunite with Ken Griffey Jr., or even join Rodriguez with the Mets.
Fiery Sweet Lou has taken the Mariners to the playoffs three times. In eight seasons with Seattle, he has outlasted Griffey, Randy Johnson and the Kingdome. But he might be ready to try his luck somewhere else.
"We wanted to bring the World Series to Seattle in the worst way," Piniella said.
Rodriguez came up in 1995, when Johnson and Griffey led a late-season charge and a playoff comeback against the Yankees that saved baseball in Seattle.
With the two superstars gone, the Mariners became A-Rod's team and he helped them post their winningest season in history. He also was their most dangerous hitter in the series, batting .409 with two homers and five RBIs against the Yankees.
Rodriguez also did his best to prolong his career with the Mariners, sparking a five-run rally in the fifth inning of Game 5 that brought the series back to New York.
He also helped the Mariners deliver an early message that their cross-country flight wasn't in vain as Seattle jumped out with a two-run first against New York's October ace Orlando Hernandez.
Rodriguez's RBI double started the scoring and temporarily quieted a crowd that had come ready to celebrate.
His solo homer in the eighth inning, however, came too late to prevent his buddy, Jeter, from going to another World Series, and wasn't enough to prolong his Seattle career.
"I'll watch some of the games," Rodriguez said of the World Series. "There's a shortstop on one of the teams I want to see. I haven't had a chance to talk to him much the last few days."