DENVER—Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez found a way to inject some excitement into baseball and make the slow month of October interesting last Sunday when he announced that he would opt out of his quarter-of-a-billion dollar contract with New York in order to become a free agent this offseason.
The unusually slow month, the only interesting point of which was a seemingly unending array of baseball games—some of which even went past their usual nine-inning limit—was very nearly a complete disappointment for the league. Now, however, the clutch statement by Rodriguez has inspired fan interest once again and has many fans and members of the baseball media calling Rodriguez "a contemporary Mr. October."
"Thank you, A-Rod," said ESPN's Peter Gammons, who left a baseball game in Denver between the Boston Red Sox and the Colorado Rockies immediately after hearing the news Sunday and flew to Legends Field in Tampa to get comments from Yankees front man Hank Steinbrenner. "We desperately needed something to get us out of the never-ending drudgery that is fall baseball. This is a real treat. "
The announcement, made during the late innings of what thankfully and at long last turned out to be the final game of the 2007 season, came as a welcome respite to many. For the past month, baseball fans around the nation endured the interminable and repetitive process of determining the two league champions, followed by the predictable coronation of one overall champion.
"A-Rod's decision about free agency is what I have been waiting for all October," Boston resident Nat Boyle said. "Would A-Rod forfeit the remaining $91 million on his contract? Would the Texas Rangers be responsible for subsidizing $30 million of his salary? I mean, ever since I was a kid, that's what October has been all about."
Boyle's statement echoed the sentiments of millions and millions of fans watching the final baseball game on television, who, following Rodriguez's disclosure of his future plans were delighted by endless commentary on the situation by Fox's Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.
According to viewers, both Buck and McCarver thankfully talked for inning after exhilarating inning about what team Rodriguez might play for next year, what he must have been thinking to walk away from a $30 million annual salary, and what his decision meant for the future of the New York Yankees—a team that was not playing baseball at the time of the announcement and is not scheduled to play another professional baseball game until April 2008.
"I was dozing off there in the eighth [inning] right after I think some guy hit a home run to bring us within one run of tying," said Colorado resident Russ Gamble, who was in attendance at Coors Field at the time of the announcement. "But then my buddy nudged me, told me the news about A-Rod, and I was like, 'Man, this is fucking incredible!' I was literally on the edge of my seat thinking about where he might end up in 2008. Cubs? Tigers? Red Sox? Oh man, if I were the Red Sox, A-Rod would be my number-one priority."
Added Gamble: "Someday, I can tell my kid that I was at some baseball game when [Rodriguez's agent] Scott Boras sent an e-mail to the Associated Press saying that A-Rod had just opted out of the final three years on his 10-year, $252 million contract."
According to other fans in attendance, the entire stadium was "simply electric" from the moment of Rodriguez's announcement until the last out of the game, at which point many stated they became "extremely depressed" upon the realization that Rodriguez had very little chance of ending up in a Rockies uniform.
However, no matter where he eventually plays, Rodriguez's October legacy is now assured.
"Two things you can always bank on in October," ESPN's Baseball Tonight host Tim Kurkjian said. "One, baseball is thankfully almost over. And two, Alex Rodriguez will always be available to provide the fans with the kind of off-field heroics for which he has become so famous. Now, his contract belongs to the ages."