He has more than likely played his last big league game. The last Alex Rodriguez baseball cards from his playing career will carry a 2016 date. Age catches up to all athletes, and at 41, the man who was once the brightest star in the big leagues is no exception.
“But it doesn’t work that way.”
He’s one of only a few players left whose careers began in the 1990s…and A-Rod’s baseball life was alternately brilliant and polarizing. His statistics are mind-numbing, but are tempered with the knowledge that he admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs during parts of his career. I attended a Yankees-Rays game at Tropicana Field on July 29 and Rodriguez was not in the starting lineup. However, in the ninth inning he was called upon to pinch-hit, and the reaction was intense.
There were 17,856 in attendance for a Friday night game, but the crowd saved its biggest noise for A-Rod as he approached the batter’s box. The noise was deafening — mostly boos, and from fans of both teams.
As Rodriguez has done so many times in his career, he ignored the noise. He singled to left field off Erasmo Ramirez, but it didn’t matter as the Rays won 5-1. Moments like that have been common but to Yankee teammates and coaches, he’s well-liked.
As A-Rod announced his retirement, he said he wanted to be remembered as someone who was “madly in love” with baseball.
“And also I hopefully am going to be remembered for someone who tripped and fell a lot,” he said, “but someone that kept getting up.”
Social media is having a field day with the retirement announcement, with this example by Pierre the Pelican on Twitter typical: “Nobody will miss A-Rod more than A-Rod.”
He has been called “Pay-Rod” for his astronomical salaries, “Stray-Rod” when he was accused of an extramarital affair in 2007, and “A-Fraud” by his teammates. There is no question that Rodriguez generates heat wherever he goes, whether he has been seen dating singer Madonna, or being fed popcorn in a suite during Super Bowl XLV by his then-girlfriend, actress Cameron Diaz.
There are currently 40,231 listings for Rodriguez cards on eBay, with the highest priced offering a 1994 Collectors Choice Silver Signature white letter card that holds a PSA 10 grade. Asking price is $19,999. At least there is free shipping, but so far, no bids. Within 12 hours of A-Rod’s announcement Sunday, 512 new card items were put up on eBay.
If this were the 1990s, you’d never have guessed most of A-Rod’s cards would be priced as low as they are. We’ve put together a list of five cards that aren’t necessarily his most valuable, but offer a nice cross section of his career.
Without a doubt, this is the most valuable regular issue rookie card of A-Rod’s career. Upper Deck debuted the premium SP set in 1993, the highlight being Derek Jeter’s rookie card. The sophomore version of SP in 1994 features A-Rod as the key component of the 200-card set. Rodriguez was one of 20 “Prospects” that were printed on metallic foil, and being the No. 1 pick overall in the 1993 draft, he certainly garnered plenty of attention. It was deserved, as he became an all-star and was second in the American League MVP voting in 1996 (losing by three points to Juan Gonzalez), when he was only 20. He led the league in batting average (.338) and hit 36 homers, while adding 123 RBIs.
Save for the few PSA 10s or BGS 9.5s that come on the market, these are fairly affordable.
It’s not hard to find a Rodriguez card from this set, but it is interesting because it depicts a youthful A-Rod during his high school baseball days at Miami Westminster Christian. As a junior, Rodriguez helped the Warriors go 33-2 and win the Class 2A state title, and as a senior in 1993, he batted .505 with nine homers, 36 RBIs and 35 stolen bases in 35 attempts to earn first-team All-American prep honors.
Rodriguez was named the USA Baseball junior player of the year and was the selected by Gatorade as the national baseball student-athlete of the year. In 1993, Rodriguez also tried out for the U.S. national baseball team.
Even ultra high-grade examples of this one can be had for $5–or less.
Rodriguez appeared twice in this 72-card mix of top prospects spread across Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A teams. He is card No. 1 in the main set and No. 55 in the 12-card Franchise Gems subset. In 1994, A-Rod made his professional debut with the Appleton Foxes of the Class A Midwest League. He played 65 games theer, batting .319 with 14 homers and 55 RBIs before being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville. Rodriguez would advance to Triple-A Calgary before being called up the Seattle Mariners late in the 1994 season.
The Action Packed set typically sported an embossed, heavily lacquered player photo on the card front. In the Franchise Gems subset the card back featured two photos and a black diamond, which, when activated by a person’s finger heat, would reveal the player’s expected debut season in the major leagues.
This one, too, was once very popular but can now be had for a song.
2003 Donruss Heritage Collection No. HC-21
The year Rodriguez won the A.L. MVP in his final season with the Texas Rangers, he was part of the 25-card Donruss Heritage Collection. This included some of the top past and present major-league stars, including A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Nolan Ryan and Derek Jeter. Interestingly, of the players in that 2003 set, the only ones still active are Rodriguez and Ichiro Suzuki. You can own Alex’s card for around $3.
The design of this card is reminiscent of a Christmas present, with gold wrapping paper and red trim. Along the left side of the card, it looks like there’s some wrinkling, but it’s done for artistic effect. The Rangers thought they had landed quite a gift when they signed Rodriguez to a 10-year, $252 million contract after the 2000 season.
During a 2007 interview on 60 Minutes, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003.
2013 Topps No. 213 (variation)
This short-printed variation was part of Topps’ flagship set in 2013. The card, which is a little hard to find but still not expensive when you do, shows him reaching into the stands to make a play. While much of the attention on Rodriguez focuses on his hitting, he also won a pair of Gold Gloves at shortstop in 2002-03 with Texas. He moved to third base when the Rangers traded him to the Yankees, since Derek Jeter was already entrenched at shortstop.
The 2013 season was significant for Rodriguez because he was suspended 211 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis baseball scandal. After an arbitration hearing the suspension was reduced to 162 games, so Rodriguez missed the entire 2014 season.
Without the suspension, it is quite likely Rodriguez would have topped 700 homers in his career.
Darren Rovell of ESPN.com wrote Sunday that during his years with the Rangers and Yankees, Rodriguez made an average of more than $200,000 per game—$257,732 for the Rangers and $200,255 for the Yankees. In comparison, he averaged $16,129 per game with the Mariners. If he doesn’t sign with another team, A-Rod will have earned $452 million for playing baseball. He still has money owed to him on the 10-year, $275 million contract he signed after the 2007 season.
Will Rodriguez ever be elected to the Hall of Fame? Since Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens also have been linked to PEDs, probably not. However, Rodriguez offered apologies for what he did, and whether he was contrite or not, that’s much more than Bonds or Clemens offered.
“This is a tough day,” Rodriguez said Sunday. “This is also a proud day.”
In her 2009 book, A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez, author/journalist Selena Roberts wrote that Rodriguez “had tried to puncture the Plexiglas resistance of the Yankee faithful.”
“They could see him, even admire him, but he never touched them,” she wrote.
“Rodriguez’s tale was an epic novel, far more fascinating because of the enormity of his abilities and the frailty of his personality,” Rovell wrote Sunday.
Love him or not, there are still buyers for A-Rod’s big ticket cards. You can see the current ‘most watched’ below.