New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez continues to dominate headlines despite the fact that he hasn't appeared in a single game this season. The injured superstar is on the mend after hip surgery, but his motivation to return is being called into question.
Bill Madden and Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News report sources close to the situation believe Rodriguez has become spooked by Major League Baseball's investigation into performance-enhancing drugs, including the Biogenesis clinic.
The sources state the three-time American League Most Valuable Player is aiming for a return to action followed by possible retirement in order to ensure he receives the $114 million left on his contract. Under that scenario, a suspension would have no impact on his future pay.
Once he's back playing in rehab games, the sources say, he could then claim he is physically unable to perform because of the serious hip injury he is recovering from, "retire" from the game, and still collect the full amount of his salary—$114 million over the next five years.
"It’s all about him getting his money and not losing it to suspension," one source close to the situation told the Daily News. "He knows he’s never going to the Hall of Fame. All that’s left for him is to make sure he gets his money—all of it."
Craig Calcaterra of NBC's Hardball Talk offers some insight on this scenario:
There is one major thing wrong with this: Drug suspensions don’t work that way.
Whether A-Rod is playing or not, he cannot avoid Biogenesis discipline if it comes down by going on the DL. Yes, a player on the disabled list can technically “serve” his suspension in games he would have missed anyway—remember when Freddy Galvis did this?—but he’s still getting his pay docked. Thus the endgame described in both stories—A-Rod somehow evading Biogenesis discipline to “collect his fat salary,” as the Daily News headline puts it—makes zero sense.
Whether he’s playing or disabled, he will lose 50 games pay for a 50-game suspension, 100 games pay for a 100-game suspension and his lifetime pay for a lifetime suspension. The disabled list gambit saves him nothing.
Meanwhile, the New York Post reported Thursday that Rodriguez has told the team he's not ready to begin a rehab assignment, due to concerns about his hip.
Alex Rodriguez informed Yankees officials in Tampa yesterday he isn’t ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment because his surgically repaired hip isn’t up to the task, a source told The Post last night.
This despite Rodriguez tweeting a day earlier that he had been cleared to play in games by Dr. Bryan Kelly, the surgeon who operated on him in January. The tweet infuriated general manager Brian Cashman.
“He is not ready to play in games,’’ a person with knowledge of the conversation said. “He is worried about his health.’’
The report comes after a week of twists and turns involving Rodriguez and the Yankees. It all started after the slugger took to his Twitter account to tell the world he was given clearance to start playing in games as the next step in his recovery.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman didn't take kindly to the public announcement and had some choice words for the third baseman, as passed along by Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
"You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]," Cashman told ESPN New York. "Alex should just shut the f--- up. That's it. I'm going to call Alex now."
Cashman didn't apologize for the message being sent, but did regret the choice of words and said the team was hoping to get Rodriguez back, reports Gabe Lacques of USA Today.
"I regret the choice of words I used yesterday," Cashman said to reporters Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
"I didn't handle this one. I popped. Reality TV at its best...We want to control the message and when. We want Alex back. That's not an issue."
The new report about Rodriguez seeking an escape route before the league potentially hands out suspensions is just another layer of an already complex situation.
It's one that will continue to steal the spotlight until a resolution is found, and there's no timetable for that either in terms of a potential suspension or a return to the major league roster.
Once one of the sport's best hitters, Rodriguez was a shell of his former self last season. He hit just 18 home runs in 122 games. It marked the second straight year he failed to crack 20 homers after a span of 13 consecutive with at least 30.
His OPS dropped to .783, over 160 points below his career mark, and there's a strong chance he will never return to those previous levels at his advanced age (37). So the Yankees are in a tough spot with so much money still on the table.
The triangle being formed between Rodriguez, the Yankees and Major League Baseball makes it basically impossible to predict how everything will play out in the coming months. The motivation from each side is different.
Add in the fact the Yankees are now 3.5 games behind the rival Boston Red Sox in the tough AL East, and things could get even more interesting if the offense continues to struggle. In other words, the story isn't likely to go away anytime soon.
Perhaps that shouldn't be a surprise given the player and team involved in the drama.