10:17 am Feb. 1, 2013
Yesterday was a fairly typical day in the public battle between Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees that's been going on since the Miami New Times reported links between Rodriguez and a nutritionist who allegedly supplied athletes with performance-enhancing drugs.
The Daily News reported early Thursday morning that Rodriguez "is unlikely to ever wear the pinstripes again, sources familiar with the Yankees’ situation with their troubled third baseman told the Daily News, no matter what happens regarding new allegations that he is again involved with performance-enhancing drugs."
Furthermore, the hip surgery that the doctor performing it had described as quite successful, with Rodriguez's hip suffering less cartilege damage than anticipated, was now a physical death blow that "will likely derail his playing career, leaving him in such a diminished role that he may consider a settlement or an outright retirement."
And then, in the very next sentence, the reason the sources with the Yankees were so eager to push this storyline:
"He still has five years and $114 million left on his contract."
And once again, that is the whole point here. Rodriguez is 37, declining rapidly, and unlikely to be worth close to that over the next five years. If the new allegations help the Yankees, in any way, to leverage the situation to eliminate the Rodriguez burden from their books, they'll take it.
It won't be easy, though. The team cannot punish Rodriguez for use of the drugs; that is the league's role, as agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement. Finding a doctor willing to contradict the opinion of the one who performed Rodriguez's hip surgery, to say he cannot recover simply so the Yankees can collect the insurance money, is unlikely as well, while requiring the cooperation of Rodriguez, who has no incentive to do so.
Rodriguez (or "sources" speaking for him, anyway) reiterated his intention to return to baseball, which makes sense. Not only has nothing changed in terms of his physical recovery, but any hesitation on Rodriguez's part will only drive down his bargaining power if he subsequently chooses to change course and explore a buyout of his contract with the Yankees.
And despite their behind-the-scenes pushing, the Yankees cannot appear to be trying to push Rodriguez out. So when asked about Rodriguez's statement, general manager Brian Cashman's one-word response, "good," was the only thing he could say.
All kinds of alternatives are possible. Perhaps Rodriguez won't recover sufficiently to play again, not in some insurance fraud scheme kind of way, but in an actual way. Maybe there is a sweet spot to be found between how much the Yankees are willing to pay Rodriguez to go away short of the full $114 million owed to him, and Rodriguez's interest in taking some money and moving on with his life, either to another team or out of baseball altogether.
In the meantime, publicly, the Yankees and Rodriguez will keep on smiling through gritted teeth. It's the only option for both sides.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
The Mets are exploring a number of options left to add to their bullpen. Sandy Alderson said using Frank Francisco as his closer in 2013 made him uneasy, and the Mets are rumored to be pursuing Jose Valverde, who made Jim Leyland so uneasy he removed him as closer during last season's playoffs.
Jason Kidd should return for Friday night's game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Anthony Mason's son helped Niagara deal Iona a devastating 93-90 loss.
The preseason kicked off Friday morning, against the Columbus Crew.