Spring training games are underway. The hot stove stories that kept us going all winter have been replaced by stories about non-roster invitees trying to make a major-league roster, behind-the-scenes looks at what your favorite player did over the winter, and columns drawing conclusions about spring statistics. And Alex Rodriguez stories. There are always A-Rod stories.
So it was on Sunday when several outlets reported that A-Rod’s cousin was selling Rodriguez’s 2009 World Series ring. And not just any cousin, but Yuri Sucart, the person A-Rod fingered as the person who convinced him to take steroids while he played for the Texas Rangers. Sucart was later banned from MLB clubhouses but his name recently resurfaced in news reports about Biogenesis, the Miami anti-aging clinic that purportedly supplied PEDs to A-Rod and others.
A-Rod. Traitor. Biogenesis. PEDs. Greedy cousin. Perfect storm.
It turns out that the ring for sale is a replica of the one A-Rod received from the Yankees after the 2009 World Championship run. According to this ESPN.com article, A-Rod had replica rings made for friends and family. But the auction house selling the ring for Sucart claims it’s not just any replica, but an identical duplicate of the ring A-Rod received:
After winning the World Series, Alex requested the Yankees issue him an additional ring, so he could give it to a close family member who had supported him throughout his life and career. The Yankees obliged this request, understanding how significant an event finally winning a World Series was to him. An additional ‘player’s ring’ was issued to Alex (exact same ring as Alex and all other Yankees players received) and we offer that ring here. It comes with a notarized LOA from the recipient, Alex’s cousin Yuri Sucrat [sic] (a name that should be well known by most Yankees fans). It also comes with copies of his driver’s license and Dominican passport as proof that the ring originated from Alex Rodriguez.
Bids started at $5,000. As of this writing, there were ten bids, pushing the price up to $33,657. The auction ends on April 5th.
If the auction house description is accurate, the interesting story here is that A-Rod asked the Yankees to have a duplicate ring made for a “close family member who had supported him throughout his life and career,” that the close family friend was Sucart, and that the Yankees obliged. It’s unclear whether A-Rod paid for the duplicate or the Yankees did, but either way, for purposes of the Biogenesis investigation, it may be significant that A-Rod remained close with Sucrat after the cousin was banned by MLB, and at least through the end of 2009.
The less interesting story is that a Yankees World Series ring is for sale. I suppose it would be noteworthy if A-Rod were selling his only World Series ring, given the nature of his relationship with the Yankees now (active but strained) and the apparent balance in his bank account (large). But it’s not like it’s the only World Series ring currently for sale. In January, Yahoo! Sports reported on a 2005 White Sox World Series ring for sale on eBay for $24,999. On Monday, eBay was listing four World Series rings for sale: a 2007 Red Sox ring starting at $35,999; a 1983 Orioles ring starting at $10,500; a 1998 Padres ring starting at $5,995; and a 2009 Yankees ring, starting at $29,995. It appears this 2009 Yankees ring is different than the one Sucrat is selling.
Beyond eBay, you can find additional World Series rings for sale all over the web. Here’s a 2010 Giants ring for sale for $14,995 on Championship-rings.net. The same site lists two 1999 Yankees “Dynasty” rings owned by players, one for $24,995 and one for “call for price.” Rings commemorating World Series or Championship Series victories by the Mets, Cardinals, Red Sox, Braves, Orioles, Marlins, Padres, Indians, A’s, Dodgers, Tigers, Phillies and Reds are also for sale.
As fans, we feel emotionally attached to our favorite team. We collect autographs and bobbleheads and set up special displays to hold all of our treasured memorabilia. When our favorite team wins the pennant or the World Series, the emotional attachment becomes stronger and deeper. For many fans, it’s inconceivable that a player would sell his World Series ring, even after he’s retired.
There are exceptions, of course. Several well-known players who found themselves in difficult financial situations sold their World Series rings recently. The most notable ones are Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra and there was no hue and cry.
The same is true for long-retired players and managers. Former Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto sold his 1953 and 1996 World Series rings in 2006, along with a thousand other baseball-related items. Rizzuto was 88 at the time; he and his wife wanted to move to a smaller house. His daughter Patricia described the sale as an effort to “thank his fans for the loyalty they’ve shown him” while Rizzuto was still alive. He died in 2007.
Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver sold his 1966 World Series ring in 2011, along with other baseball keepsakes, so as to avoid intra-family squabbles over the items. Weaver told the Associated Press at the time, “I have four children. They have children, and their children have children. I don’t know how to divide whatever memorabilia there is among them.” He decided passing cash onto the next generations was simpler. Weaver died earlier this year.
But an active player selling his ring? Betrayal! A retired player who doesn’t need the cash? How dare he! But isn’t that fans imposing their passion, their emotion, their team connection on the players? We think we know how players feel about the team and the fans, but we don’t. We don’t know what happened in the clubhouse. We don’t know the ins and outs of the players’ relationships. We don’t know the sacrifices that were made to win those championships and whether that left some players with less than happy memories.
The World Series flags that fly high above the ballpark — those are for the franchise and for the fans. The rings are for the players, coaches and staff. And how they choose to treasure those rings — or not — is for them to decide. For the fans, flags fly forever.