When Alex Rodriguez was gearing himself up last year to return to the New York Yankees following a one-year exile, he was apprehensive of what lied ahead for him.
Now, one year later, the slugger appears at peace with where his MLB career stands as a 40-year-old, everyday designated hitter, and he cites the “Cinderella season” he enjoyed in 2015 as the main reason he’s so relaxed and content.
“Overall, I feel so much better coming into this year,” he said, via ESPN’s Andrew Marchand. “It is certainly liberating not carrying this luggage around me all offseason. I’m at ease and I’m at a good place. I know 2015 was a Cinderella season for me. Look, I don’t take it for granted. To be able to wear a uniform at the age of 40 is pretty cool.”
A “Cinderella season” arguably is a good way of recapping 2015, as A-Rod posted a triple-slash of .250/.356/.486 with 33 homers and 86 RBI last season, respectable numbers given his age, to be sure.
Rodriguez isn’t overstating his current enthusiasm or underselling the concerns he had heading into spring training last season. He says even before he arrived at the Yankees’ facilities in Tampa, Fla., he was hearing whispers that he may not even make the team out of spring training. This contributed to a situation that devolved into a “circus”, according to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
Still, as A-Rod stressed, he won’t be taking anything for granted this season.
“Look, at age 40 with two hip surgeries, I’m day-to-day,” he said. “My attitude is to play hard and play as long as my body lets me.”
Rodriguez admitted that his aging body let him down as the grind of the 162-game regular season, acknowledging that he “ran out of gas in August” and “stunk.” He added that his energy returned in September but nevertheless “played poorly,” posting a .191 average with only nine home runs and 25 RBI over his last 56 games.
In a sign of humility that stands in stark contrast to the reputed narcissistic personality he cultivated over his career, Rodriguez understands his past is forever tainted regardless of how he miraculously transformed himself from baseball’s biggest pariah into arguably the sport’s biggest redemption stories last season.
“I’ve made some big mistakes and that is never going to go away,” he conceded. “Last year, I made some great progress, on and off the field, but I’m at first base. I have a long ways to go. My life is not just about baseball. I have hopefully the next 40 years to be a father, to be a friend and to be an example for my friends.”