Is A-Rod's 'Conspiracy' Claim a Desperate Attempt to Play Baseball Before Ban?

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Is A-Rod's 'Conspiracy' Claim a Desperate Attempt to Play Baseball Before Ban?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Alex Rodriguez just can't stay out of the spotlight, and this time it's all about his quad strain—or lack thereof.

According to Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated, the quad injury that supposedly needed an MRI might not even be real.

Well, this is an interesting turn of events.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports offers three explanations of why there are conflicting reports about A-Rod's quad:

  1. Rodriguez is lying.
  2. The New York Yankees want him out of the lineup.
  3. The doctor is completely wrong.

Any of these options could be right, but all three of them raise questions surrounding Rodriguez and the Yankees.

Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com offer up the explanation that the Yankees are conspiring against their third baseman. After all, it was a team doctor who initially said that he had the quad strain and wouldn't be able to play baseball for a while.

The Yankees maintain Rodriguez, who will turn 38 on Saturday, is not fit to play. According to a source, Rodriguez insists he is and believes the Yankees, with the help of Major League Baseball, are conspiring to keep him off the field.

Obviously the conspiracy theory sounds a bit far-fetched, as keeping a star player like A-Rod off the field when the team so desperately needs a third baseman doesn't make sense at first.

A "highly-placed baseball source" told Matthews and Marchand he certainly doesn't believe the conspiracy theory provided by A-Rod.

So he's saying the New York Yankees, Major League Baseball and New York Presbyterian are all in cahoots to phony up an injury? It makes no sense.

Actually, trying to keep A-Rod off the field does make a bit of sense for the Yankees financially.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Rodriguez is currently part of the Biogenesis scandal that cost Ryan Braun the rest of his 2013 season. He is facing a lengthy suspension, which could be at the root of the conspiracy.

First, as a reminder, here's how MLB's PED punishment system is set up:

First Offense 50-game suspension
Second Offense 100-game suspension
Third Offense Lifetime ban

The players who are linked to the ongoing Biogenesis scandal are potentially facing a 100-game suspension, according to Phil Rogers of The Chicago Tribune. That's technically two offenses for anyone involved.

The reason this plays into the A-Rod conspiracy is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig has already tried suspending Rodriguez 50 games for a first offense back in 2009, when Selena Roberts and David Epstein of Sports Illustrated first revealed that he used various PEDs from 2001 to 2003 with the Texas Rangers.

If Rodriguez's first offense is taken seriously and the Biogenesis scandal accounts for two more, then he's facing a lifetime ban, which has been reported.

So what does all this mean for the Yankees?

Elsa/Getty Images

It means that if Rodriguez doesn't play a game this season then the team doesn't have to pay him the $28 million he's owed this year in its entirety, and if he's suspended for life it would be able to relieve itself of most of the remainder his 10-year, $275 million contract that runs through 2017.

According to Bill Madden of New York Daily News, if Rodriguez doesn't play, the Yankees wouldn't have to pay him nearly as much as if he played for a week or two.

If, as Cashman suggested, A-Rod misses the entire 2013 season, the Yankees would be able to recoup much of his $28 million salary from the insurance they have on him. The insurance kicks in only after the player has missed at least four months of the season, and it’s minimal unless he misses the entire season. Even better, of course, would be if the prognosis of Dr. Bryan Kelly, who performed the surgery to repair the labrum and an impingement in the left hip, that A-Rod will be able to resume his career as long as he does the rehab, turns out to be wrong.

From the Yankees’ standpoint, the best-case scenario would be for A-Rod to never come back, for that would effectively get them out from under the remaining five years, $114 million on his contract. Not only would the insurance kick in for 85% of that, but A-Rod would become a voluntarily retired player with a paid-up contract that comes off the Yankee books (and subsequently would lessen their luxury-tax burden).

In other words, the Yankees' finance department would jump for joy if Rodriguez never played another game.

Al Bello/Getty Images

It still sounds a little far-fetched, but the team would save itself a ton of money by holding Rodriguez out of the lineup until after he is suspended.

This latest development also sheds light on the situation from June when Rodriguez tweeted that he was on his way back and GM Brian Cashman exploded on him for revealing that information.

At the time it seemed like Cashman was just upset that Rodriguez revealed information before the team was ready to disclose it. However, in retrospect it forced the Yankees to begin Rodriguez's return, and Cashman could have been upset that A-Rod's tweet could have cost the team millions of dollars.

The same could be true with this latest development, as Rodriguez sought a second opinion on his quad without informing the team, which violates the CBA, according to Matthews and Marchand.

The Yankees apparently didn't take too kindly to Rodriguez approaching Dr. Gross.

The Yankees were exploring the possibility that Rodriguez was in violation of baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement by seeking a second medical opinion without notifying the club first, a source said.

Why would a team look into the possibility of a player violating the CBA on its own if he paid for the visit himself and the move only helped the team? After all, the Yankees should want their third baseman back, right?

Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

As Matthews and Marchand report, the Yankees are still reluctant to put A-Rod back into the lineup even though he has said he feels fine and team sources agree, saying "he has to prove to us that he can play and he's not nursing an injury."

If Rodriguez has truly proven that he is ready to get back on the field, why hasn't he played yet? He would be an upgrade over Luis Cruz at third, but the team apparently wants to stick to the initial diagnosis—one that could keep him out of the lineup for another month.

A Yankees team source told ESPNNewYork.com on Tuesday that the diagnosed quad strain would require 10 days to two weeks of healing time. After the injury is healed, yet another rehab assignment would be necessary and that could last as long as 20 days.

What is going on in the Bronx?

Elsa/Getty Images

If the Yankees want Rodriguez back, why isn't he back yet? He is at least on the verge of returning, but the team appears ready to keep him out for a few more weeks despite his reported lack of any physical ailments.

Rodriguez wants to play, and by saying that the Yankees are conspiring to keep him off the field, he may just get his wish.

A-Rod may have already forced the team's hand once, and even by claiming that the team is holding him back, he is doing it again.

If Rodriguez is actually still injured and the team keeps him out, there will be rumors that they are, in fact, conspiring against him, forcing the team to bring him back as quickly as possible.

Are the Yankees conspiring against their own third baseman?

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If Rodriguez is healthy and the team is indeed conspiring against him, they have been exposed and have to play him in order to avoid suspicion.

No matter how you look at the situation, Rodriguez is likely on his way back to the lineup soon (if he doesn't get suspended first). The team can't afford to have accusations of conspiracy floating around, and the only way to quell them is to play him.

This move by A-Rod could potentially be part of a mastermind plan to get back onto the field before he is suspended so he can cash in on his current contract.

There are a whole lot of questions in New York, but nobody has answers. The question facing the general public now is what (and who) do you believe?

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