Weary Yankees Appear Ready to Give Alex Rodriguez a Most Unwelcome Return

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistNovember 24, 2014

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Pass the mashed potatoes, please, while we count our blessings.

Family? Definitely. Friends? Absolutely. Food on the table and a roof over our heads? You bet. Mom's homemade pumpkin pie? Yessir (with whipped cream, please).

And then there are the New York Yankees.

They're thankful for Giancarlo Stanton and his new record-smashing $325 million contract. Because it is Alex Rodriguez's record that he smashed. And now the Yankees no longer are in the humiliating position of paying the largest contract in history to a pinstriped scoundrel.

How do we know this?

Because Yankees president Randy Levine told us.

His reaction at the owner's meetings last week in Kansas City belongs in some sort of Reaction Hall of Fame.

"Thank God," Levine said after Stanton's contract was finalized.

Then, in case he hadn't emphasized his point enough, he repeated: "Thank God!"

After seven years of living with the modern Clown Prince of Baseball and paying him the largest sum in the history of the game, only to watch him serially soil his own bed at every turn, it is evident that the Yankees are anticipating his re-entry into the game this spring as eagerly as you'd welcome a spoiled turkey onto your dinner table this week.

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Which, hey, come to think of it, there are quite a few similarities there, no?

"Thank God," Levine said a third time, even louder than the first two and now laughing, as my old colleague Bob Nightengale of USA Today related.

It has come to this: The greatest spectator aspect of MLB next summer is not going to be watching Stanton wallop homers, Mike Trout leap fences or Andrew McCutchen glide across center field.

No. Sadly, the greatest spectator aspect of the game will be the continuation of watching A-Rod stripped down for parts.

You know it. You can't get away from it. And most of the reason you can't get away from it is because you're addicted to it, just like to tales of Kim Kardashian's rear end and Justin Bieber's egg-tossing. I'd love to not write about the guy, too, except, clickclickclickclickclick, well, you know.

Some people think I'm too mean to A-Rod. Listen. I sat through that dog-and-pony press conference to start the spring of 2009 at Yankees headquarters in Tampa, Florida, during which his teammates dutifully showed up to support him and during which the perp admitted to taking banned substances from 2001-03, apologized and promised to do better.

Then he spent the next five years spectacularly flunking Actions Speak Louder Than Words 101.

Fast-forward through the ugly Civil War he ignited with the Yankees two summers ago, through him storming out of an arbitration hearing saying it was all "b------t", through his staunch denials, through his historic 162-game suspension.

Now cut to The Miami Herald report earlier this month that has him coming clean to federal investigators that he did, in fact, use performance-enhancing drugs purchased from Biogenesis.

Coming clean under the umbrella of immunity, of course.

After accusing MLB of a "witch hunt." After whining two summers ago that "I am fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don't defend myself, no one else will." After saying point blank, "I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing drugs."

No, normally you'd look at a 39-year-old has-been gimping toward a comeback on surgically repaired hips and root for him.

With A-Rod, you root for the train speeding at him.

This guy has 2,939 career hits and 654 homers, numbers that are dwarfed by the staggering metrics of his lies. As he tried to grow his legend, his stature became smaller and smaller.   

So the Yankees inch forward this winter, constructing their team for 2015, girding themselves for the coming Nuclear Spring when the Toxic One rejoins them.

Maybe they bring back Chase Headley to play third base. Maybe it's someone else. General manager Brian Cashman, when he's not sleeping on the streets of New York to draw attention to the plight of homeless youth (and good for him), has said that the club is attempting to acquire a third baseman.

The Yankees have kicked around the idea of having A-Rod learn to play first base. Maybe they can get their lawyers to sign off on having him work as a fry cook in one of the Yankee Stadium concession stands.

If there is any way the Yankees can duck out of the $61 million they owe A-Rod over the next three years, they'll find it.

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Me, if I'm running the Yankees, I make sure A-Rod is on every single road trip this spring. The longer the trip, the higher up the travel list he goes. I give him his playing time in the second half of Grapefruit League games, so he can't play the first few innings and then leave early. That privilege is afforded to regulars, and those who have earned it. If A-Rod wants to play hardball, hardball it is.

What the Yankees must do is enter spring training with depth and patience. Because when we last saw A-Rod, coming back from hip surgery and with a historical suspension hanging over his head in the second half of 2014, he batted .244 with seven homers and 19 RBI in 181 plate appearances. And the paparazzi need space to park.

This game is hard. A-Rod is old. He hasn't played competitively in more than a year. And what goes around comes around: As he cheated, lied and lashed out, in the end, he's only made things far more difficult on himself.

That's on him, nobody else.

Levine says that the Yankees this spring will treat A-Rod like any other player. Basically, he'll have to make the team. You wonder whether "treat him like any other player" means that if he looks like he can't compete early, the Yankees will tell him to go away sooner rather than later.

"Either he can contribute or he can't," Levine said at the owners' meetings. "Either he can play or he can't.

"We'll see."

Yes we will.

Hardball. Either the turkey can play, or he can't. Pass the stuffing, please.

Gobble, gobble.

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl.

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