Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Journey - Chapter 10

Two days before the 2015 All Star Game, the Yankees called a hastily drawn press conference. Brian Cashman spoke:

"It is with a great deal of sadness that I come here today to inform you that we have terminated the contract of Alex Rodriguez with the NY Yankees. A-Rod served this organization with distinction for over a decade. For all those who have doubted him and spoken harshly, know that he has been dedicated forever to the betterment of the team. We, as an organization, have had some rough patches with Alex, but through it all we have recognized his commitment and passion for the game and for the fans of New York.  As of today, he is no longer associated with the Yankees and is free to offer his services to any other major league team. We wish A-Rod nothing but the best wherever his future, inside and outside of baseball, may take him."

Alex Rodriguez was hitting .197 when this announcement was made. In truth, it was an open secret that the team had been trying desperately for weeks to give him away, or to work out some kind of settlement to buy out the balance of his contract, which had two and a half more seasons to run. The Yankees had failed in their efforts to peddle his wares, had failed in their efforts to have him declared medically unfit to play due to the continuing difficulties with his hips, and were forced, in the end, to absorb all but a few million dollars of the remaining monies due to A-Rod as they escorted him out the door. It was a bad moment for the team, and for A-Rod it was extremely hard.

I had been a big critic of Rodriguez during the revelations of prolonged steroid use. I felt that he, and others of equal star power, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, had abused the privilege that their talents had afforded them. All of them had become so egomanical that they, much like Lance Armstrong in cycling, had seemed offended by even the suggestion that their skills had been artificially enhanced. It was that hubris on the part of A-Rod which drove me to write several letters which the NY Times published on my great and lasting displeasure for him.

Yet, I must admit that when I read the Cashman statement I was saddened, and felt more than a touch of sorrow for the former third basemen for the team. I understood that Rodriguez was particularly aware of and sensitive to criticism. Whereas Jeter seemed to go about his business, and keep his head down, not listening to the whispers of lack of range or power, Rodriguez took in every bit of negativity. He wanted to please, he desperately needed to please, and if it meant doing what many others were doing, he had to maintain his place at the top of the pantheon of heroes. This is not intended as an endorsement for the fallen star, but an explanation of what seemed to drive him and feed his insecurities.

As there were no games played on July 13th through July 16th, I was able to spend that time away from the game. But the rise and fall of Alex Rodriguez remained with me throughout that time.

I was happy, if that phrase can ever be associated with work, to have four uninterrupted days at the office. No thoughts about rushing out to the Stadium, no planes to catch, no packing or unpacking. One thing I had discovered was how nice it was not to have plans.

My back was acting up a bit, and so the time off was welcome in that regard.  I  envisioned myself much like the players who welcomed the break to reconnect with loved ones and to rest their engines. It gave me a chance to sit down with both of my children and give them my mid-term report. And to spend a lot of time talking about nothing to do with baseball.

Even better was that, after the break, the first two series were at home. That meant that there would be almost two weeks when I could be at home with my wife. Oh, yes, my wife.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don't know who they are, but I can testify that they are correct. I missed my wife, more than I ever expected. Closing in on four decades of marriage, it is hard for me to believe I am even writing these words. There were no more secrets, for they had long, long ago been revealed. But what I had not realized, maybe never realized, is that I should appreciate what it was that I had, that I knew, that I could count upon day after day. That I loved.

And so, this baseball season became one in which there was a little bit of a renewed romance between myself and my wife. I don't know if she felt it in the manner that I did, but I think I finally was beginning to understand, even a little, what marriage was all about.

When I left for the road, and Minnesota, in the early afternoon of July 24, I was more than a little sorry to kiss my wife goodbye.

No comments: