You had to look between the lines of what was said and done by Alex Rodriguez Sunday to recognize a defiance that is familiar in many aged stars certain they can still play, no matter what anybody else or the numbers say.
The only apparent leak leading up to Sunday's news conference was from Rodriguez himself, who shared with a colleague from A-Rod's television career that he was being pushed out against his will -- comments seemingly timed to appear just moments before he spoke. For someone well-practiced in the art of steering the media -- someone who has often identified allies and enemies among reporters -- this seemed far from coincidence, and subtly passive-aggressive.
On the podium, in front of the club executives in the room, he deflected questions about how the Yankees handled this. But Rodriguez seemingly wanted to make sure everybody knew this situation wasn't his choice, and the message got through loud and clear. "It's sad to see Alex isn't" going out on his own terms, Brett Gardner told reporters.
In the news conference, Rodriguez thanked Hal Steinbrenner for the opportunity to be an adviser, he thanked teammates, he said a lot of nice stuff. Manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman said really nice stuff about him.
But Rodriguez did not say his playing career is over. He did not say that he felt like he couldn't be an effective player anymore. To the contrary, he indicated that he still believes he can hit.
And if this is what he thinks, at the lowest moment of his time with the Yankees -- as the team announced he was going to be released -- there would seem to be a good chance he will look to play for another team. This is something that very well could happen, as the workaholic hitter has a chance to collect some perspective and think about what he wants to fix in his swing. Rodriguez has competed his whole career. The Yankees are saying, through their actions, that they don't think he can play anymore, and Rodriguez's focus may be to compete against that perception.
Maybe that will happen in the next seven weeks, or maybe it will happen over the winter, as teams consider a full range of player options, including non-roster invitees. Here's an early look at which teams could be a match for Rodriguez, who needs only four homers to reach 700 and 18 homers to tie Babe Ruth's 714.