Girls can be legitimate baseball fans – and not just butt watchers

Have you ever gone to baseball game that was absolutely perfect?
Not just because your team won or your favorite player hit a homerun – but a game that every part of the experience, top to bottom, was as great as you could ever dream of?

That’s how I felt this past Saturday in Cleveland.

Like many things in life, the experience (good or bad) depends on who you’re with. Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend the game with five awesome people, and two great little people. For one of those little people, my eight-year-old nephew Hunter, it was his first MLB game. Who better to take him than Aunt Jess?

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But before we even left for the game, we found ourselves the Yankees beating the Brewers on a Clint Frazier homerun. Of course, that name is significant for Indians fans and brings up two baseball debates – Frazier or Bradley Zimmer, and The Andrew Miller Trade. On this particular day, it also foreshadowed a few key moments of the game that was yet to happen.

We don’t take ourselves too seriously…

The whole reason for making this whirlwind trip to Cleveland to attend this specific game was because it was Andrew Miller jersey giveaway night. You may have heard (along with half the rest of the world) that I’m a pretty big fan of Miller. When my best friend’s husband told me about the giveaway, we immediately started making plans. Eventually, the plan expanded to the six of us adults, Hunter, and Lisa’s nephew Tyler.

Let’s have Jess do something ridiculous with Miller Lite cans!

No matter how seriously the players or the fans may make it, baseball is still a game. It is a form of entertainment that is meant to be enjoyed by fans and yes, even the players. Baseball is not a necessity in life, and for those of us lucky enough to become fans, it often bring great enjoyment.

Seeing Tyler and Hunter at the game together was a very real reminder that fun is what baseball is all about. The two have been friends for a few years but have been unable to spend much time together lately. Even though they spent most of the game talking about video games and whatever else young boys talk about, they were surrounded by all things Cleveland baseball wearing their own (adult XL) Miller jerseys – and having a great time.

The game itself was a solid battle between starters Mike Clevenger and Justin Verlander. Even though the Indians typically hit Verlander well (and he accuses them of stealing his signs), he was able to hold the Indians at 1 run through 6.2IP. Clevenger caused fans some anxiety by throwing 115 pitches through 6 innings, but did not allow the Tigers to score a single run. At the top of the 7th inning, it was time…

Miller Time completely snuck up on me. From my seat in the left field bleachers, I could clearly see the Tigers bullpen, but a line of trees blocked the Indians bullpen. I couldn’t see if anyone was throwing, let alone who – so when a tall figure with the number 24 on his back appeared at the warning track, all I could do was say “It’s him! That’s my guy!!” as he jogged toward pitcher’s mound.

And of course, Miller didn’t disappoint! We were treated to two excellent innings from Miller – three up, three down in the 7th – and three up, three down in the 8th. “Do you think they have him come out for the 9th?” someone asked me. No – this was everything I could have dreamed of – thirty pitches for two perfect innings. That’s right around Miller’s limit for the regular season. Cody Allen could have his moment and get the save.

At the time Miller took the ball, I hadn’t even been in Ohio for a full 24 hours…

But the Indians weren’t done wowing us yet. They scored three runs in the bottom of the 8th off Bruce Rondon to take a 4-0 lead over the Tigers (which would remain until the end of the game). Lonnie Chisenhall scored on a Carlos Santana double, and Santana scored when Bradley Zimmer tripled. Zimmer then scored on a sacrifice fly from Yan Gomes. Unsurprisingly, Rondon was then replaced by Daniel Stumpf, who was able to record the final out of the inning when Francisco Lindor flew out to centerfield.(Sidenote: Bradley Zimmer is utterly amazing. There are very few players who have impressed me so much so quickly.)

In the bottom of the 9th, Allen recorded two outs before allowing a base hit to Miguel Cabrera. At that point I got a little nervous because Allen has a history of being a bit of a Houdini and not making his saves easy. But, my nerves were calmed when JD Martinez lined out to second baseman Erik Gonzalez (who replaced Jason Kipnis when he left the game injured after the 3rd inning).

Ballgame over – Indians win. Was it a success? Yes. Even though Hunter told me his favorite player was Adrian Peterson (not even the same sport!), called Slider “the guy in the purple suit”, and thought the racing hotdogs were dressed as trashcans, he still said he had fun and would go to another game – but maybe a day game.

Just before the game started, I asked Hunter if he knew which team was the Indians – and he answered correctly. I told him “We want them to hit and score runs” and he pointed to Francisco Lindor “Even him?” “Yes, especially him” I said as I thought about how easy it is for Lindor to hit, score runs, and field like a dream. In that moment, I couldn’t help but wonder if Lindor would be that player Hunter would “grow up with” – if he would be around Cleveland for years to come, and Hunter could look back and say he saw him play when he was young, similarly to how I talk about seeing young Manny Ramirez and Bartolo Colon.

The whole evening was nostalgic as I looked around the stadium and thought back to the first game I went to in 1996. The stadium had changed – mostly for the better. There are several flags in right field to celebrate everything from division titles to American League pennants. Since the 1995 World Series, the Indians have had a lot to celebrate, especially compared to the decades of disappointment and embarrassment. How many games had I seen at this stadium…? There are too many to count. Too many teams and players to remember. It’s a good thing I saved all my tickets from back then and can lookup box scores from 20 years ago.

While leaving the stadium, I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. He had been across the street at The Q seeing another game and decided to wander over for the Indians postgame fireworks.

As I was laying in the grass at a small park on Ontario Street, with The Jake to my right and The Q to my left, I couldn’t help but smile and feel totally in love with Cleveland. As I was reliving the night while driving home the next day (really, just a few hours after leaving the game), I couldn’t help but remember what one Cleveland Indians executive said to me less than a year ago when the Indians acquired that tall, left handed reliever from the Yankees: “Welcome home.”

And it was so good to be back…

July, 1997

What were you doing in 1997?

Let me refresh your memory –
Titanic was the top movie of the year. But, if you were like me, you found Good Will Hunting to be more your speed.
The top song of the year, according to Billboard, was “Candle in the Wind 1997” by Elton John because it was the same year the world said goodbye to Princess Diana.
We also lost Mother Theresa, Notorious B.I.G., Gianni Versace, and Married With Children –
But we welcomed Hanson (Mmmbop), the Harry Potter series, Pokemon, America’s first female secretary of state (Madeline Albright), and Dolly the Sheep’s clone.
Bill Clinton was still president!

Back in 1997, now 20 years ago, (watch out, I’m about to admit my age here) I was a 14-year-old girl living in a small town in northeastern Ohio and had just completed the 6th grade. On July 7, I watched my first baseball game – the 1997 All Star game live from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio!

When I started watching baseball, Bartolo Colon and I were still in Cleveland – and we both weighed a lot less.

It’s funny to think about how much baseball has changed, how much the world has changed, and how much I’ve changed in those twenty years. When I watched that All Star game, I was sitting in my living room – without air conditioning – looking at a tv that only got a handful of channels and, by today’s standards, was ridiculously small. Sandy Alomar, Jr was the MVP – and a hell of a catcher for the Indians at that time (my favorite). Now, he’s the first base coach for the Indians. The first base coach for the Detroit Tigers is his former teammate Omar Vizquel.

The Indians went to the World Series that year, and lost in game seven the (then) Florida Marlins. The heartbreak I experienced during game seven of the 2016 World Series is the only thing that has softened the blow of that loss. This week, the (now) Miami Marlins drafted Joe Dunand, Jr – the nephew of Alex’s Rodriguez (who first caught my eye about 5 minutes after I started watching baseball in 1997).

This year, on July 8 – twenty years and 1 day since I started watching baseball – I’ll be returning “home” for Andrew Miller night in Cleveland, and taking my 8-year-old nephew to his first baseball game. If I was finishing my first year of middle school in 1997, Andrew Miller was finishing elementary school; he probably wasn’t 5 feet tall yet and no one in the world could have known what kind of bullpen hero he would develop into (of that he would eventually become my Hero).

What does it mean that all of these things are now a distant memory? First, it means I’m getting older… But as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, it also means I’ve seen a lot of history. And, also like I’ve said before, I’m thankful for that history.

I’m thankful to have watched baseball in the height of, and the decline of, steroid use.
I’m thankful to have seen pitchers develop into the magicians they are today.
I’m thankful to see young players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado (my personal favorite) show up and light baseball on fire.
I’m thankful for watching my all-time favorite, Alex Rodriguez, play for 20 years, and even for his retirement, because I can appreciate his talent, his high points – and his low points – and his man he’s become after all the chaos
I’m thankful for the Cleveland Indians because without them, baseball would be just another game to me.
And I’m even thankful for not one, but two blow game sevens – because I’ve always known how emotional baseball could be, and because I needed that “coming home” moment last fall to remind me where my journey began.

July is special to me. Each year during the All Star game, I’m thankful I started watching this game. A few years ago, I joined twitter specifically to talk about this game, and two years ago started my baseball blog. This July, exactly two decades later, I will have the opportunity to share this game with my nephew Hunter.

Will he be as mesmerized by the game as I was? Will he see a player on the field he immediately knows is his favorite? Will he love the game as much as his Aunt Jess does?

Maybe none of those things happen – but you know I’ll certainly try my best to share my love of this wonderful game.

Looking Back at 2016

It’s been awhile – nearly five months if you’re counting.

This was a long offseason; a very fitting follow up to a difficult baseball season.

Fans should be passionate about baseball, but they shouldn’t be emotional. That’s a typical “girl” reaction and considering some people don’t even consider us legitimate fans, we should hide our emotions.

Last season wasn’t an easy one for me. I had a trifecta of gut-wrenching moments: the retirement of my favorite player, the trade of another favorite, and watching my hometown team lost the World Series. Again.

But – if I didn’t feel so strongly about each of those three things, I wouldn’t be the fan I am today.

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As I’ve mentioned (many times), I became a baseball fan in 1997, and an Alex Rodriguez fan approximately five minutes later. Watching him play when he was just an insanely talented young shortstop in Seattle changed who I am as a baseball fan.

We all know someone, probably many people, who don’t like baseball because it’s “boring”. They see a lack of action on the field so the entire game drags on. Fans of the game know there’s so much more than meets the eye. We can appreciate how much of the game is mental rather than physical, and we can feel excitement even when there is no action.

Watching Rodriguez play in his early seasons brought this to life for me. It wasn’t because he was a good-looking guy pictured in magazines – it was because his fielding was energetic and I could feel the excitement every time he came up to bat. Suddenly, the game was so much more than just a guy throwing a ball, and another guy who may or may not hit it and run around the bases. It was the intellect behind the game and understanding the thought that went into each pitch, each at bat, and each play on the field. Baseball was anything but boring!

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My appreciation for pitching is still developing. Admittedly, I don’t fully understand all the physics behind it, but I am constantly fascinated and learn a little more each game I watch.

Andrew Miller was the first pitcher I really “noticed”, and watching him pitch, at least in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful things in baseball. What impresses me about Miller compared to other pitchers is that he makes it look so effortless. He takes the mound, throws a few pitches (frequently facing the minimum number of batters), then strides over to the dugout like it was nothing.

Even more impressive is he’ll do that every game for multiple innings (any innings) if the team needs him to – and you’ll never hear a complaint. He seems to be exactly the kind of guy you want on your team and in your bullpen – a leader who puts the team before themselves.

As disappointing as it was to see the Yankees trade him, I’m glad he went to Cleveland. From the moment the trade was announced, Indians fans were happy to have him – and I’m certain it was genuine because Cleveland is home for me, and I know their fans; I grew up as one of them. Miller showed all the same character and talent in Cleveland as he did in New York. He embraced the city as his new home, he pitched whenever and whenever Terry Francona needed him, and even changed his entrance song because Indians closer Cody Allen was using the same one (Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”).

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And Cleveland – oh, Cleveland…! My hometown, known most infamously for losing sports teams and our river catching on fire, is where I became a baseball fan. For most of my life growing up, the Indians were the only baseball I could watch. Occasionally I would see a Mariners or Yankees game at my friend’s house (she had satellite TV and MLB Extra Innings – a big deal for that time), but Indians games were consistent. I was fortunate enough to see them make it to the World Series twice – and unfortunate enough to see them lose both.

Witnessing the Indians win the ALCS (with Andrew Miller’s help, no less) was one of the most exciting moments I’ve experienced as a baseball fan. The team seemingly came out of nowhere to make it to the World Series for the first time in 19 years. When the Cubs won the NLCS, I was slightly less excited. Both teams had long and disappointing histories. Regardless of what happened, the winning team deserved the win and the losing team would have to suffer a little longer. I was on the Cubs bandwagon right through the NLCS along with so many others.

Game seven was an emotional rollercoaster. I felt myself go from the extreme high after Rajai Davis hit that homerun, to the extreme low when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo completed the final out. There I was for a third time in my life, crying over another disappointing Cleveland loss in the World Series.

But – that loss lead me to something good: it led me back to the Indians. I’ve never stopped being a fan, but I admit I haven’t always been a good fan. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible to have more than one favorite team, but I have to disagree. Cleveland is home, and the Indians are the team I loved first. If I didn’t watch their games, I would have seen Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees, or any other players/teams – and I may not be a baseball fan today.

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What will 2017 bring? It’s the start of a new era for me as a fan. Thinking about what I’ve seen in the last twenty years makes me excited to start the next twenty years. My favorite player may be retired, I may never fully understand pitching, and my hometown my never win the World Series again – but who knows what exciting things are still to come.

Whatever happens, I just hope I’m there to witness it – and I hope I never experience such an emotional season again!

A Cleveland Love Letter

No matter what team we’ll be cheering for tonight, baseball fans everywhere can agree this is going to be a good World Series. Both teams, along with their fans, have been waiting their whole lives (or longer) for this moment.

For just the third time in my lifetime, the Cleveland Indians are going to the World Series, and I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve been told several times, by a variety of people, that you can’t have more than one favorite team. To be honest, I don’t really care what any of those people think. There are four teams in Major League Baseball I would be incredibly happy to see in the World Series because they’re my favorites. And there are a lot of other teams, the Chicago Cubs included, whose bandwagons I would jump on…if only they weren’t playing one of my favorite teams.

It has been 68 years since the Cleveland Indians won the World Series. Yes, it’s been longer for the Cubs – the whole world knows that – but 68 years is still a long time, especially in a city like Cleveland.

For my fellow Yankee fans who miss seeing their team in the playoffs, think of it this way: it’s only been nine years since the Yankees won it all (and it was great!). Imagine living those same nine years another nine (almost ten) times. That’s how long it’s been for Indians fans.

Until the Cavs won their championship earlier this year, Cleveland wasn’t considered a winning city. (Maybe it still isn’t?) The Indians came close a few times since 1948, but they never sealed the deal. The Cavs were pretty good, but then LeBron bailed (but eventually came back). And the Browns may not win a single game this season – there’s very little hope they ever see a Super Bowl in my lifetime.

Cleveland is “The Mistake by the Lake” is the butt of many jokes, sports included. I first realized this when I was a young child watching an episode of Saved by the Bell. When Kelly Kapowski said the Cleveland Indians were one of the biggest jokes in history, I asked my dad why she was being so mean to our team. “Because,” he said “the Indians were really bad for a very long time.”

I’m fortunate enough to have been too young to remember the really bad years. I do, however, remember exactly where I was when the Indians lost the 1995 and 1997 World Series. I could walk into my childhood homes (we moved in early 1997), stand in the exact same spot, and feel like the moment just happened. To be so close to winning it all and it slipping through their fingers…well, Cleveland never wins at anything anyway.

Cleveland is my home, and regardless of what people say, it’s a pretty damn great city! We’ve had our very public struggles (did your river ever catch on fire?), but we’re pulled through. The Cleveland I still visit today is very different from the Cleveland of years and decades past, and it’s getting better every day.

For most of my life, the Indians were the only baseball I had in my life, so I will absolutely be cheering for them tonight and for the rest of this season. I’ll be cheering with my 91-year-old Gramma who will be watching it at home (hopefully with a cold beer). I’ll be cheering with John Adams, the “annoying drum guy” who has sat out in left field for every game since 1972, including the bad ones. And I’ll be cheering for my Grampa, and many others who are no longer here to watch their team play ball.

It’s been a good year for Cleveland, and there will never be more excitement downtown than there is tonight. Let’s use that energy and #RallyTogether for our city.

 

I only wish I had a Great Lakes beer to drink with the game.

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Jose Fernandez

Last night, Orioles rookie Trey Mancini became the third player in MLB history to hit a homerun in each of his first three games in the Majors. My husband and I were sitting in section 43 at Camden Yards last night, and when the historical stat was displayed on the scoreboard, I said to my husband –

“You never know what you might see at a game. That’s why I like writing about every game I go to – although I’ve been very bad about it this year… And sometimes, you don’t realize the significance of what you see until much later.”

I didn’t expect that statement to be so true, so soon.

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At my hotel room in Baltimore this morning, I turned on ESPN, who was reporting breaking news. “Great,” I thought, “something is happening in football and I just want to see baseball highlights.” But then Jose Fernandez’s face appeared on the screen.

I don’t remember who reported the news, or what they said. I just remember gasping, and immediately crying when my brain comprehended the news. He wasn’t hurt, he hadn’t gotten into some kind of trouble – he was dead. At 24 years old. Gone from baseball, and the world, forever.

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I saw Jose Fernandez pitch just once – one year and one week ago in DC – and it was by total luck. Early in the season, I had the chance for free tickets to a regular season Nationals game during the 2015 season. I chose a late season game, September 18, against the Marlins. I was hoping to see Giancarlo Stanton hit a monster homerun, but in June he broke his hand and was still on the disabled list when my game came around.

Instead, I was able to witness something much better – Jose Fernandez (back from TJS sooner than expected) vs. Max Scherzer (my favorite Nationals player) – and I wasn’t disappointed. Both pitchers had solid games, although both were no decision starts.

Fernandez was very good – until he wasn’t. He allowed one homerun and only two earned runs (same as Scherzer) over 5.2 innings, although he threw 95 pitches to do so. At the end of his outing, he looked fatigued – but still impressed me for someone making just his ninth start after recovering from TJS.

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Jose Fernandez was easily one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball – and he had only three years of service time since his debut April 7, 2013. He will be remembered as much for his performance on field as well as his character.

We know his story of coming to the United States and becoming a professional baseball player. We’ve seen the devotion he has to his mom, and to his abuela. Recently we learned he was about to become a father.

Every baseball player loves the game, but few (if any) have ever expressed it the way Jose Fernandez did. So often we forget that baseball is a game and meant to be enjoyed, but Fernandez’s smile was a beautiful reminder that baseball is meant to be fun.

There are multiple stories of Fernandez connecting with teammates, opposing players, and the community. He formed bonds with children and with charitable organizations.

This is the kind of player you want representing baseball – or any sport.

Imagine if he had the chance to play a full career and we had twenty years of Jose Fernandez…

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 Appreciate every moment life gives you. Love someone or something as much as Jose Fernandez loved life and baseball.

And remember every baseball game you go to. You never know what history – and greatness – you might witness.

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Those Clever Indians!

Here’s a change in blog posts – I’m going to tell you a story, rather than give my opinion.

For anyone who doesn’t know, I grew up an Indians fan outside of Cleveland. I still consider myself an Indians fan, although not always a very good one…

My favorite team, of course, are the New York Yankees. One of my favorite Yankees of all time, possibly one of my favorite baseball players of all time, is Andrew Miller. When he was traded to Cleveland, I was devastated. Of all the teams in the league, it had to be my hometown team! But at the same time, I trusted the Indians and their fans to welcome him and appreciate him as much as I did while he was in New York. So far, they’ve done exactly that, and it makes my heart happy…even if I miss him terribly.

Now I live in Maryland – approximately halfway between the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals. Several of my friends work in DC, where it’s not uncommon for people to be very secretive about their jobs for various reasons. When you’re so close to the federal government, you learn not to ask too many questions because sometimes your friends simply can’t tell you any more about what their job involves.

One of my secretive job friends recently met some of the Indians front office staff while the team was in town to play the Nationals. My friend confirmed they were who they claimed to be, and then started to talk baseball with them…

Friend started with mentioning the Indians impressive season and the addition of Andrew Miller to the roster. The Indians people were clearly excited to talk about their newest acquisition. Friend got very bold then, and mentioned how I – a Yankee fan originally from Cleveland – was really sad to see Miller go, because he was my favorite.

The Indians front office guy grinned and said “Tell her ‘Go Tribe’ and ‘Welcome home!’”

 

You can’t make this stuff up!

 

Final note my heart still belongs to the Yankees, even if this year has been especially tough for me seeing my favorites leave. I have, however, committed to buying an Andrew Miller 24 Indians shirsey to support the hometown team.

I have a shirt for several MLB teams, but nothing for the Indians – it’s only fair!

 

If you’ve ever read my twitter account – or really, if you’ve ever met me – you know I’ve been a huge Alex Rodriguez fan for a long, long time. I was a fan way before all the big contracts and the even bigger controversies. I suffered through the bad years to enjoy the newest version of Alex Rodriguez some fans have grown to tolerate or, heaven forbid, even like.

I may not have had time to write anything since spring training, but you all knew you I would write about this.

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First of all, let me say that I knew I would be an emotional mess however Rodriguez’s career ended. I am a (somewhat) logical human being and know that no athlete’s career can last forever. I even accepted the fact that Rodriguez’s career would be ending in the very near future – but I never expected it to be August 12, 2016.

All things considered, this ending could be a lot worse. The Yankees could have completely cut ties with Rodriguez considering the amount of stress he brought to the organization. Instead, they worked out a (seemingly) peaceful agreement to end his playing career and keep him as a special advisor – the highest paid special advisor ever. They didn’t have to do that. I know that, you know that, and the Yankees know that.

But despite the logical part of my mind knowing this, the whole thing still doesn’t set quite right with me. This ending is abrupt, and now it seems to be much less peaceful than it originally looked.

Last season, I had a terrible feeling this year would be Rodriguez’s last – but I actually thought he would get to the end of the year, realize he was now 41, and decide to retire a year early. In a way, my gut feeling was right – this year is, in fact, Alex Rodriguez’s last year as a professional baseball player. I had a gut feeling prior to the press conference Sunday morning as well (but I think a lot of us did). Something inside me knew the Yankees were about to screw him, and that this wasn’t his decision.

 

Sunday morning, I watched the press conference in a hotel room in midtown Manhattan before checking out and ending a weekend in the city. Not even 24 hours earlier, I had been at Yankee Stadium, seen the Yankees lose, and then saw Rodriguez drive by me and wave (the closest I’ll ever be to meeting him). In the height of that moment, I never in a million years thought I would hear about the end of his career just hours later.

Since crying and screaming at the TV in room 2309, I’ve had time to calm down and think about all this. I’m much less angry than I was Sunday morning, but there’s one thought that keeps running through my head since turning on ESPN that morning –

This is total bullshit.

Also – don’t call it a retirement! Mark Teixeira is retiring. Alex Rodriguez is being released.

 

Jason Zillo, who looked incredibly too happy to be announcing the end of a superstar’s career, said those exact words at the beginning of the press conference:

“Following the game [Friday] he will be unconditionally released by the club from his player contract, in order to sign a contract to serve as a special advisor/instructor for the New York Yankees. The new contract will run through December 31, 2017.” (Coincidently, when his player contract would expire.)

If you watched on MLB Network, you were able to witness something truly amazing before this press conference even started – Harold Reynolds was the voice of reason. Before anyone from the Yankees walks into the room, everyone on earth is alerted by a press release from the Yankees saying Rodriguez would be released. While this is being discussed on air, a dumbfounded Reynolds is heard saying “Why would they release all this before they get to say it?”

The Yankees didn’t even let him announce his own “retirement”!

If you’ve spent any time watching interviews of Alex Rodriguez, particularly during the Biogenesis mess and fallout thereafter, you may have noticed a significant change in his body language Sunday. I am by no means an expert on body language, but I’ve seen enough video of him in 20 years to notice subtle changes.

When Zillo is beaming and announcing the news, Rodriguez is first like a stone. He holds his jaw tight, staring straight ahead – maybe to keep his emotions in check, but maybe because he already knows the bullshit that’s about to be said. Later while Zillo is talking, he grabs his water bottle and takes a few quick, somewhat aggressive sips – something that was very characteristic of the defensive interviews he gave before he accepted his suspension. But then it’s his turn to talk.

The mood changes. He starts off reminding us that he broke into Major League Baseball at 18 and that he didn’t think he could play for 22 years. His hat comes off. He tries (unsuccessfully) to hold back tears. He stares straight ahead – maybe remembering that kid in Seattle who first caught my attention – and says that at 18, he was just trying to make the team.

“We all want to keep playing forever,” but ending gracefully is part of being a professional athlete.

He talks about the game and the team he loves, and that “today, I’m saying goodbye to both.”

“Saying goodbye may be the hardest part of the job.”

When he thanks his mom and his daughters, who have “been through so much with me,” he cannot stop the tears.

In his speech thanking so many people, including the Yankees and the Steinbrenner family (imagine that happening in 2014), he never says he’s retiring.

 

During the question and answer portion, a few things stuck out to me –

Rodriguez is clear this was “Hal’s idea” and “the Yankees’ decision,” but said he would keep his conversations with Hal Steinbrenner private, even though the very next day Steinbrenner discussed the discussions in detail on The Michael Kay Show.

When asked why Friday, August 12 would be his last game, he cited “logistics” as the reason. It is incredibly moving to hear him say he wanted to play one last game at home in front of his mom, but what an awkward time. That particular game opens a home stand and is the first game of a series against the Tampa Bay Rays – but that Saturday is the 1996 World Series reunion and Sunday is the Mariano Rivera plaque dedication.

Forgive me for being cynical, but it is only good business sense to add a promo to Friday’s game too and really try to sell tickets for a weekend series. Of course, that series is against a last place team – one who recently SWEPT the Yankees, which is probably what forced the Yankees to finally sell at the trade deadline. (But I’ll come back to that in a bit.)

Rodriguez is also asked how it felt to not be in the lineup day after day. He says it’s “not fun,” and calls it “painful,” “embarrassing,” and “awkward.” Anyone can clearly see the desire to play and contribute to the team is still there, even if the opportunities to do so aren’t.

The hardest question for Rodriguez, by far, is when he’s asked how he should be remembered – but in my opinion, it’s also the best answer he gives, and maybe the most genuine. He pauses, stares ahead, and says it’s not for him to say, but says he hopes to be remembered as someone who was “madly in love with the game of baseball” and someone who “tripped and fell a lot, but kept getting back up.” Later in the press conference, he refers to himself as a “guy like me who’s been to hell and back, and made all the mistakes in the book.”

If there is anyone in the world who still thinks this guy doesn’t regret the things he’s done, do yourself a favor and watch this press conference.

 

After Friday’s game, Alex Rodriguez will no longer play for the New York Yankees. Instead, he’ll be that highly paid special advisor – even though his duties don’t officially start until next spring training. He’ll go back home to Miami, far away from New York, and wait. Saturday morning, there will be a new player and a new jersey in the Yankees clubhouse, and I will forever remember him as “the guy who took Alex’s roster spot” regardless of who he is, or what kind of career lies ahead of him.

There are less than two months of the 2016 MLB season, and the Yankees are currently 7.0 games back in the AL East, 4.5 games back in the Wild Card. This isn’t the season the Yankees, or anyone else, planned on it being. The bullpen was supposed to be the strength of the team, but Bryan Mitchell suffered an early and unfortunate injury, Aroldis Chapman was traded to Chicago, and Andrew Miller was traded to Cleveland. Greg Bird was injured before spring training even started – and then several first basemen followed right along with him. Mark Teixeira and his anemic batting average are struggling through his final days as a profession baseball player (because he’s retiring, he’s not being released). The only offensive power the Yankees had, Carlos Beltran, was traded to Texas. Aaron Hicks is somehow a worse hitter than Stephen Drew, but yet he’s seeing regular playing time.

This isn’t a team that’s going far this year – but that’s okay. Things didn’t work out as planned, the Yankees sold what assets they had, and the future looks brighter than ever. I completely get that, even if I hate to see some of these players go. Baseball is a business…but there’s an emotional side too.

As already mentioned, Mark Teixeira is finishing out the season. He’s struggling to do so, but he’s out there giving it all he has before the end of the season. Derek Jeter was able to retire on his own terms. So were Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Those seasons weren’t what they hoped for either, but they gave it their all until the bitter end.

Why can’t Alex Rodriguez do the same? Even if the Yankees still forced him to leave the game, the end of a season is a lot more logical than a random Friday night in August. That would leave no awkward gap of watching regular season games from home, while the team you just left is still pretending they have a chance.

I was optimistic about this team as long as I possibly could be. But when Chapman, Miller, and Beltran were traded, the Yankees were waving the white flag – whether anyone in the front office admits it or not. I would love nothing more than to see the Yankees in the playoffs, but they would have to play nearly perfect baseball for the rest of this season, and I just don’t see that happening with this roster.

And if that’s the case, what harm is there in letting Rodriguez play a few more games for the Yankees? At this point, I don’t even care if he hits 700 homeruns or hits 7,000 homeruns – there is no financial bonus for either, but at least it gives him a chance to give it everything he’s got. Instead, he has a press conference on a Sunday, two opportunities to play on Thursday and Friday, and he’s done forever. He doesn’t even stick around to jump into the advisor role. I guess the young players like Starlin Castro who are here now don’t need any guidance until next year.

 

Thanks for your twelve years of service to the New York Yankees, you’ve got five days to wrap up here, but you’re only going to play two of those days.

 

I still think it’s a bunch of bullshit.

 

I did not even listen to Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi’s portions of the press conference. I know what Girardi said has already proven to be bullshit, and I just don’t have the stomach to listen to either one of them give their excuses right now.