Relax, this photo of Yankees GM Brian Cashman and third baseman Alex Rodriguez was taken in 2004.
After a little innocent back-and-forth—the kind that led general manager Brian Cashman to oh-so-bluntly tell A-Rod to "just shut the [you-know-what] up"—the club finally cleared its highly paid (former?) star third baseman for rehab in the minors on Monday, per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports, meaning Rodriguez is taking the next step in returning from major offseason hip surgery.
That was the first on-field news we've heard about A-Rod in quite some time. Everything else these days, it seems, has been off-the-field drama. That's drama, pronounced duh-RAMA. Heck, Cashman himself said this latest episode was "reality TV at its best," per Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News.
While the situation isn't quite the same as the Yankees' old Bronx Zoo days back in the late 1970s, that doesn't mean there aren't real problems to fix and real issues to hash out between the two sides. But how do the Yankees and A-Rod go about mending things? More importantly, can they?
By now, those may be questions without answers, problems without solutions. Trying to lay out a plan of attack that doesn't wind up with one side actually attacking the other? That's kind of like asking Dr. Phil to get everybody on the Real Housewives of New Jersey to hold hands and sing "Kumbaya."
Still, let's put on our mustache and try to take this passive-aggressive, back page headline-grabbing, made-for-reality-television muck and come up with something productive.
Step 1: Get It All Out
As in yelling, screaming, shouting, pounding fists on tables. Whatever it takes. It might sound counterproductive, but how can Rodriguez and the Yankees move on if they don't get out all the anger and frustration first?
The only rule here is that neither side is permitted to hit or throw anything at the other. Words and insults? Hurl away.
Step 2: Keep It All In
But then, once everything that was pent up is out of their systems, the two sides need to agree that's the end of it. Especially when it comes to the public forum. Meaning, any more problems stay in house. No combative statements released or hidden agendas passed through the media.
That's realistically impossible to avoid in New York, but the fewer problems raised and fights carried out via the headlines, the better.
Step 3: Don't Pin Hopes on A-Rod
This is as much for the fans as anyone else. Look, A-Rod is going to be 38 in a few weeks. He's been on the decline for years. He's a shell of his former self now.
That guy who has hit 647 career homers, who won three MVPs and who was the driving force behind the Yankees' 2009 World Series championship? He's long gone.
So don't be silly and expect that Rodriguez can come back and solve all—or even any—of this team's ongoing offensive issues.
Step 4: Win Enough to Matter
What this MASH unit of Yankees has managed to do to this point is commendable, surprising even. A club that has been without A-Rod, as well as Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and others, for most of the season remains above .500 and in the postseason mix.
Still, barring some sort of miracle, the Yanks are going to have trouble making the playoffs, even if A-Rod, Jeter and Granderson come back and produce. But if the team can stick in the playoff race into September—and if Rodriguez can have some positive impact to that end—it would make everything easier. For everyone.
Step 5: Stay Healthy, Stay Clean
This one's for A-Rod. Aside from the injury problems that have cropped up in recent years, A-Rod is also dealing with another ongoing performance-enhancing drug scandal and potential suspension.
Whatever happened to this point is being investigated by Major League Baseball, and it's no secret the Yanks would surely prefer if A-Rod—not to mention the $100 million or so and four-plus years remaining on his 10-year contract—were to go away for good.
But more than likely, that won't happen. So it's on A-Rod to do what he can from this point forward to avoid giving the Yankees any more reasons to unearth a way to get rid of him by remaining on the up-and-up.
Step 6: Grin and Bear It
Last October was a good example of how these two sides can act appropriately when things could otherwise start getting messy. In the middle of yet another postseason slump, Rodriguez—one of the greatest players in the history of the sport—was benched during the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers.
That resulted in what seemed like media coverage of the media coverage of A-Rod and the Yanks at a time when both sides were at their most desperate. And yet, there were no insults hurled by the Yankees in the direction of their star, and Rodriguez responded in kind by saying more or less the right things. Per Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York last October:
I'm not happy about it. Obviously, you come to the ballpark feeling you can help the team win. When you see your name is not in the lineup, it's obviously disappointing. You've got to accept being a cheerleader and also make sure that you're ready when your number's called. I really feel in my heart, anytime I'm in that lineup, the team is a better team, without a question.
Is that the most honest answer in the world? No. Did A-Rod want to lash out at manager Joe Girardi or throw others under the bus? Probably. But he didn't. So it can, in fact, be done.
Still, the chances of everything going smoothly from here on out are pretty much nonexistent, so it's really just a matter of when—not if—the next episode occurs. Something is going to happen—on one side, on the other or on both—to cause another controversy between A-Rod and the Yankees.
Until then, we'll all be waiting on the edge of our seats. And the next time we're ready to scoff at people who watch Dr. Phil or Real Housewives of New Jersey or any other "reality TV crap," just remember what we've been glued to for the past week or so and will be glued to until next time.
Hey, if things between Rodriguez and the Yanks get any worse, well, there's always Dr. Phil.