Commentary

Take your title, A-Rod, and hit road

Go quietly, with the understanding that no one can ever take 2009 away from you

Updated: October 18, 2012, 10:23 AM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

DETROIT -- Go along with it, Alex Rodriguez. Accept your fate. The people running the New York Yankees do not want you anymore, and if major league baseball was a real-world business, they would have already fired you by cell phone and mailed off your severance package.

But major league baseball is a fantasy-world business, and that's why a non-performer can have a guaranteed five years and $114 million still coming to him, and also own the right to veto any trade his bosses want to make.

[+] EnlargeAlex Rodriguez
AP Photo/Kathy WillensAlex Rodriguez should work with the Yankees this winter to find his next ballclub.

Don't fight it, Alex. Work with the Yankees. Help them send you to Miami, Los Angeles, whatever franchise and city satisfy your criteria for an acceptable landing spot.

Just don't stick around for the next five seasons out of spite, out of some self-absorbed need to win while you're losing. "I love the Yankees," you said Wednesday night. "I love this organization."

It no longer loves you back. When you admitted to steroid use in 2009, general manager Brian Cashman likened you to a shattered Humpty Dumpty. Cashman said it was the team's job to piece you back together and return you to the top of that wall.

They don't want you on top of that wall anymore, Alex. They want you on the other side of it, going, going, gone.

As you walked out of Comerica Park on Wednesday night after a Game 4 you weren't scheduled to play in was rained out despite a conspicuous lack of rain, you were asked the following question:

Wouldn't it make sense to work with your employer in the offseason to find a team that won't bench you in the playoffs?

"I'm only focused on right here and now," you said. "There will be a time for that later."

Sooner is heavily favored over later. The Detroit Tigers might put the Yankees to sleep as early as Thursday, and then offseason issues Nos. 1, 2 and 3 will revolve around you and, more specifically, where Cashman and team president Randy Levine can offload you.

Don't make it any harder on them than it has to be, Alex. You've already won. You came to New York for one thing above all, to claim the championship one of your heroes, Dan Marino, never did, to win the same ghost-busting ring won by Peyton Manning before you and LeBron James after you.

They can't take that away from you, Alex, no matter how hard they might try. Joe Girardi can bat you 10th against the Tigers six years after Joe Torre batted you eighth against them, and it won't make a difference. Girardi can bench you, pinch hit for you, and leave you in the dugout to say "Hi Mom" for the cameras, and none of it can touch what you did in 2009, when you were bigger than Derek Jeter, bigger than everyone, as the Yankees won it all.

Yeah, you should be playing in this American League Championship Series. The Yankees lost 3,304 hits when Jeter went down with his fractured ankle in Game 1, and they volunteered to give away another 2,901 hits when they sentenced you to the pine.

Girardi's made a lot of good moves this year, even in the postseason, but that one made no sense. As dreadful as you've been against right-handed pitchers, you are still Alex Rodriguez, and Eric Chavez is still Eric Chavez.

Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson aren't in your weight class, and yet they haven't been punished for their non-performance to the same degree. So people want to know if this is personal between you and the bosses, if the New York Post story about you and the ball and the Game 1 women in the stands -- a story confirmed by a team source -- is inspiring them to hit you harder than the rest.

"I don't want to overthink it," you said to the reporters who surrounded you Wednesday evening. Later, you added, "I don't want to speculate."

Both answers sounded an awful lot like yes.

The Yankees swear up and down that you were benched for Game 4 only because you can't hit righties, with the team source saying you would've been in there against any lefty, even Sandy Koufax. Does it really matter, Alex? Cashman said he discusses lineup issues with Girardi all the time, and they've both decided the Yanks have a better chance to win without you than with you.

"I've played this game for a long time," you said, "and the bottom line is any time I'm in any lineup, I think that lineup is better and has a better chance to win. ... Any time I'm in the box the game can change, and everyone knows that."

All true. But there's a reason why these Yankees-Miami Marlins talks or talks-to-be, first reported by Keith Olbermann, came out of left field, and you seemed to understand that someone in the organization was almost wishing it to be when you said, "There's blood in the water."

You're the one hemorrhaging, Alex, and maybe that isn't fair. Maybe you should've been treated with more dignity here, and maybe your monumental career accomplishments should've bought you more time with Girardi and Cash and Levine.

Whatever. You had to know when you signed that 10-year, $275 million deal (plus $30 million in potential record-breaking home run bonuses) that this day would likely come. The day when the Yankees figured you were too old and broken down and not worth the trouble anymore.

So deal with it. Help the Yanks help you. Give them a list of three of four teams you'd be willing to play for, and then let them figure out how much of that $114 million they'll be willing to eat.

Only understand something on the way out the door, Alex. You did win. You got your championship, you played your assets off in that postseason, and you did earn the respect and affection of New York, Jetertown, on the way to that ticker-tape parade.

No, it didn't last for long. It got ugly at the end, just as it got ugly for Don Mattingly, Phil Simms, Patrick Ewing, Mark Messier, and so many other big New York stars pushed out before they were ready to be pushed.

Just don't sweat it, Alex. They can take away your job, but they can't take away 2009.

That one is yours forever.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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