Keeping Score

Hey, New York Yankees: You Signed A-Rod. Deal With It.

Alex Rodriguez says he's healthy. The Yankees are keeping him off the field. Are they treating him fairly?

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Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankess runs to first base during his game for the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park on July 2, 2013 in Charleston, South Carolina

About six years ago, Alex Rodriguez was the best player in baseball, possibly one of the best of all-time. So it’s kind of sad, and somewhat mind-boggling, that he’s now nothing more than a headache. When you use steroids, then cop to it and give anti-steroid talks to kids, and then cheat again — as A-Rod reportedly has done at the Biogenesis lab over the last few years — you can understand why Yankees GM Brian Cashman told him to “shut the f— up” a few weeks ago, when A-Rod was tweeting the results of his rehab without the team’s knowledge.

A-Rod is a migraine, and apparently, the Yankees would like to get rid of him. This off-season, when the latest performance-enhancing drug accusations against A-Rod went public, the team reportedly looked into ways to void his contract. If Bud Selig hands down a hefty suspension for Rodriguez, as he reportedly will, the Yankees front office may start popping champagne bottles, as if the team just won another World Series.

Now, the A-Rod/Yankees marriage has taken an almost comedic turn.  A-Rod was supposed to return to the Yankees lineup this week, but the team announced he had a left quadriceps strain. Rodriguez got a second opinion, and the doctor told New York sports-radio station WFAN that Rodriguez was just fine. Of course, the doctor who shared his opinion had previously been reprimanded by the state of New Jersey for failing to “adequately ensure proper patient treatment involving the prescribing of hormones, including steroids.” Wouldn’t be an A-Rod drama without a bizarre twist like this.

In response, Cashman noted that “contrary to the [MLB collective bargaining agreement], Mr. Rodriguez did not notify us at any time that he was seeking a second opinion from any doctor with regard to his quad strain.” Yup, the GM of the team paying Rodriguez $28 million this season referred to A-Rod as “Mr. Rodriguez,” like he barely knows the guy. Right now, Cashman obviously wishes he didn’t.

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On Thursday, WFAN host Mike Francesa asked Rodriguez if he trusted the Yankees. “I’d rather not get into that,” he replied. Which means, in no uncertain terms, that he doesn’t. The Yankees reportedly will attempt to discipline Rodriguez for seeking the second opinion without their knowledge. “I feel great and I’m ready and want to be in the lineup Friday night,” Rodriguez said on Thursday. Not so fast, say the Yankees: he’ll either play a rehab or simulated game on August 1, and go from there. And on and on.

The Yankees are currently 54-48, and 2 1/2 games behind the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Wild Card race. They started Brent Lillibridge at third base Thursday night. Unless his thigh is absolutely crushed — and it probably isn’t — the team has every baseball incentive to get A-Rod back in the lineup ASAP. Financially, keeping A-Rod off the field makes sense; insurance covers 80% of the $28 million salary if he’s declared physically unable to play this season. Keeping him away also limits the PED distractions — though A-Rod distractions seem to find the Yankees whether he’s playing third base in the Bronx, or on a rehab assignment in Moosic, Pa.

Neither side comes off swell in this dispute. But it’s not A-Rod’s fault the Yankees signed him to a 10-year, $275 million contract back in 2007. Even though Rodriguez was coming off a 54 home-run season, he was still 32-years old, meaning that there was a very good chance he’d break down toward the back-end of the contract. He has; injuries have forced him to miss chunks of the three previous seasons, and a bad hip has kept him sidelined all of this year. Rodriguez was outstanding during the 2009 postseason, when the Yankees won the World Series, so the team, and its fans, have gotten something out of the deal.  But $275 million is a pretty steep price for one championship.

The Yankees, however, need to deal with him. Honor the contract, face the consequences. Sure, the Yanks likely didn’t know about A-Rod’s steroid use when they signed him. But a deal is a deal. You signed him to play, let him play. While making $28 million, A-Rod isn’t exactly what you’d call a “working man.” But as long as he’s permitted on a baseball field, the Yanks have no right to stiff him.

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