Weeping Joe Girardi shaken by Alex Rodriguez’s exit
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Girardi was weeping, his voice cracking.
After weeks of benching Alex Rodriguez for what Girardi thought was the good of the team, the New York manager was able to insert A-Rod at third base for the start of his final inning with the Yankees.
Modern major league managers strive to maintain inscrutable expressions, breaking character primarily for tantrums aimed at umpires. But after Friday night’s finale, tears streamed from Girardi’s eyes.
“Some people think that I wanted to make negative decisions, but that’s not the case. I have a huge heart,” Girardi said.
“If this is the last time he plays,” Girardi continued softly, pausing for 10 seconds and sniffling as his eyes teared and he nearly sobbed, “I wanted it to be something he never forgot.”
Derek Jeter referred to Joe Torre, his manager from 1996-2007, as Mr. T.
Girardi, who replaced Torre, wasn’t called Mr. G by Rodriguez, but the two seemed tied as never before as A-Rod’s time in pinstripes shriveled toward extinction.
During the postgame news conferences, Girardi was more broken up than Rodriguez. He repeatedly had to stop speaking to gather his emotions.
“I know how much he loves this game and I know how much he loves working,” Girardi said. “He’s a workaholic, maybe sometimes to a detriment, where he wears himself out a little bit. But I know how much he loves putting on that uniform. I know how much he loves competing. I know how much he loves to play the game, and that’s probably why this week was so tough for me, because that’s what I want in a player, and me and Alex have been through a lot together, and I have really strong feelings for him.”
Following Rodriguez’s season-long drug suspension in 2014, Girardi enthusiastically started him at designated hitter for all of 2015, and Rodriguez responded with his best season since 2010. But his production dropped during the season’s final two months and did not improve in the first half of this season.
A-Rod lost his DH job against right-handed pitchers at the start of July and then was laid off against lefties three weeks later. Friday night’s start was just his third since July 22.
When Rodriguez said Sunday he would play his Yankees swan song five days later, Girardi said he would try to get A-Rod into every game he wanted. But Girardi denied him starts in two of three games at Boston, and then rejected Rodriguez’s request to open Friday at third, A-Rod’s office from 2004-13.
“I was quite angry about the strain. I was angry about it because I didn’t feel that it needed to happen,” Girardi said. “I’m going to miss him. I’m going to miss this guy. This guy did a lot of great things. I got to see a lot of neat things, and he helped us win a lot of games, and people that I really appreciate in life are the people that really have a passion for what they do, and he’s got that. So, yeah, I know that sometimes I backed him and maybe people thought ‘what are you doing?’ But I know how much he loves this game and I feel for him that he’s not going out a champion, he’s not going out on a 30-home run season.”
Rodriguez thanked Girardi for moving him to third in the ninth inning, giving Yankees fans an opportunity to cheer A-Rod when he ran onto the field and again when he was replaced one batter later by rookie Ronald Torreyes.
“I have the utmost respect for Joe, and I’ve always been one of his guys,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of trust there. This week was incredibly awkward and tough, and I was disappointed like I said before the game, but we are a family, and families sometimes disagree. So in the long-term, Joe and I are going to be just fine.”
Rodriguez didn’t want to assess his place in history, leaving that task to others.
“I’m someone who loves the game tremendously and have made some tremendous mistakes,” he said. “I’ve also worked extremely hard at trying to come back and do things the right way and mend all type of relationships and was extremely uncomfortable making some of the phone calls that I had to make. But if you look at the 22 years, to have this type of ending the last two years, is what I’m most proud of and is what I’m most going to remember.”
Despite Rodriguez’s transgressions, Girardi told his son Dante to study A-Rod.
“None of us are immune to bad decisions,” the manager said. “The big part about that is you own up to your mistakes and you correct the mistakes that you make and in life. And he has worked really hard at that, a number of times, to try to get back and do the right thing.
“Watch him hit. Watch him swing. Watch what he does. His mechanics are really, really good,” Girardi recalled telling his son. “You want complete players, and he was a complete player for a long, long time. And this guy was a great defender. He was a great runner. He knew how to play the game. He knew how to make adjustments. He knew how to hit for average, power, everything.”