Is this the end for the flawed Alex Rodriguez?

Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez will hold a press conference on Sunday in New York. (AP)

Alex Rodriguez is what happens when the imperfect man is stuffed inside the perfect ballplayer, when after twenty-some years he has come and gone as a Hall of Famer in every way but, perhaps, conscience.

He was that special. He is that flawed. He was the hero and the villain in every at-bat he ever took, for every uniform he ever wore, for every check he ever cashed and for every decision he ever made. That was his career. That is his life, most of which he worked his ass off for. The rest was cast upon him, except for the parts that were self-inflicted, and this is the wondrous, baffling, tragic era that ends – perhaps – in pinstripes and a place at the end of the bench.

On Saturday evening, the New York Yankees announced there would be a press conference on Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium and that the protagonist would be Alex Rodriguez. Under manager Joe Girardi and a front office that could authorize otherwise, A-Rod has been granted two at-bats since July 30. He is, at the moment, a .204 hitter with a .252 on-base percentage, having turned 41 only 10 days ago. The organization he joined in 2004, the same organization he has carried and infuriated and embarrassed and hoisted a championship trophy for, has other designs for his playing time, and maybe A-Rod’s own body and mind do, too.

Nobody, as of Saturday evening, was saying. Rodriguez did not return messages left on his phone or at his email address. It is not likely Rodriguez, along with Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman, who also are expected to attend, have gathered the press to announce A-Rod would be hitting sixth against the Cleveland Indians. Maybe, because things get weird sometimes, Rodriguez will return next season, because he has a contract for that. Maybe the Yankees have forced a decision upon him.

There is the matter of compensation. Rodriguez is owed the balance of $20 million this season and another $20 million in 2017, the result of a clumsy opt-out and an aggressive Steinbrenner heir some years back.

Whether Rodriguez retires, with perhaps some or all of the money he is due next season, or not, the story gets longer, but is unlikely to change. The Yankees just sold off critical parts of their team, which had been barely competitive, and Mark Teixeira just announced his retirement, and the franchise of gluttonous payrolls and big stars appears ready – finally – to find a new way. Alex Rodriguez was part of the old way. A good way, perhaps, if we’re counting World Series trophies over a century. A tenuous way, however, if we’re counting postseason berths in the last four, and how many dark Octobers might have been waiting had the Yankees continued on that path.

Rodriguez and one more year of back pay neither fully solve nor utterly foul the new model. They are simply part of it, and perhaps Rodriguez could no longer deny that his destiny at 41 looks very different than how the Yankees see themselves tomorrow.

If he is done, and there was no news of that Saturday night beyond speculation, Rodriguez will enter the final weeks of his career with 696 home runs, fourth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. Also, with 3,114 hits, three MVP awards, one World Series trophy, a .295 lifetime batting average, one PED admission, one PED suspension, and a mound of back pages.

He is the kid born in Washington Heights, who moved to the Dominican Republic and then Miami, who didn’t much know his father, who was the first pick in the 1993 draft and debuted with the Seattle Mariners at 18 years old. He is somehow the savvy survivor who didn’t quite get it, but who played the game as though it were drawn for him. He set the industry standard for compensation – twice. He hit home runs when they were innocent, and hit them when they were suspicious and then, like many of his generation’s sluggers, was pulled into the Petri dish with them. His plan to save the world from Bonds’ tainted home run record died finally in a strip mall anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables.

Whatever Alex Rodriguez announces Sunday morning in the Bronx, be it retirement or semi-retirement or a plan for retirement or a new chain of convenience stores, it is fair to say we have seen the best of Alex Rodriguez. We have seen the worst of Alex Rodriguez. We have seen both poles of the trouble magnet. We have seen a beautiful ballplayer wrapped around a guy who didn’t always get it right. Oh, but when he did. When he did.