If MLB had a roster limit on lawyers or a salary cap for legal fees, Alex Rodriguez would be in even more trouble. Just last week, he added a new legal free-agent to his all-star team and took his fight against MLB and the Yankees to new levels. More and more, this has become, in the words of Mike Lupica, "the baseball summer hijacked by Alex Rodriguez."
Team A-Rod has hired Joseph Tacopina, a well-known and aggressive criminal-defense attorney from Manhattan. Tacopina is the one you want if you are in serious trouble. It is not clear if he is simply an addition to Team A-Rod or if another attorney will soon be designed for assignment or placed on the 15-day disabled list. Rodriguez’s legal roster already includes sports-law expert David Cornwell, the prestigious labor-law firm of Cohen, Weiss & Simon, and Jay Z’s attorneys at Reed Smith. You have to wonder if Rodriguez’s legal fees will soon pass the luxury-tax threshold. Since all these firms and lawyers are well-regarded, you also have to wonder if Rodriguez has a bright future scouting legal talent.
Tacopina’s hiring could mean he will be the front man at the arbitration hearing. If MLB’s case hinges on the credibility of Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch, Tacopina would be a wise choice. His cross-examination of Bosch would be as bloody as the first five minutes of Saving Private Ryan. Perhaps Team A-Rod plans to whipsaw MLB with a good cop/bad cop team of Cornwell and Tacopina.
Tacopina has made serious charges against MLB and the Yankees.
He charged that the Yankees played Rodriguez in last year’s playoffs, knowing he had a serious hip injury, and that they never told him of the injury. He accused the Yankees and MLB of working together to end Rodriguez’s career. You have to wonder where this is going. Is it another attempt to portray Rodriguez as the victim and MLB and the Yankees as the heavies? If so, one must wonder how a man earning $275 million can portray himself as David even if MLB and the Yankees are Goliath. Is it part of some sort of defense that even if I did bad stuff, they did worse stuff.
Tacopina’s statements were curious because they didn’t address the issues in the arbitration case: did Rodriguez use PEDs and did he obstruct MLB’s investigation? Is this just an example of the old legal maxim: when the law is against you, argue the facts; when the facts are against you, argue the law; and when both the law and facts are against you, attack your adversary. Only time will tell.
MLB and the Yankees responded quickly and harshly.
Yankee President Randy Levine challenged Rodriguez to authorize the release of his medical records. He also brought up the name of Dr. Anthony Galea. Galea is a Canadian sports doctor who treated Rodriguez and who pleaded guilty in 2011 to illegally bringing drugs, including HGH, into the U.S. If Rodriguez won’t authorize the release of his records, fans will wonder why. If he authorizes their release, they might be quite interesting. Doctors take detailed medical histories from their patients and ask about drugs that the patient is taking or has taken. What type of information might Rodriguez’s records contain?
Robert Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president, highlighted a glaring omission in Tacopina’s statement. Manfred told the N.Y. Times, "The bottom line on this. I have yet to see Alex Rodriguez or any of his representatives say that Alex Rodriguez didn’t use PEDs. They’ve adopted a strategy to make a circus atmosphere of irrelevant allegations."
Tacopina also claimed that Levine told the surgeon who performed Rodriguez’s off-season hip surgery, "I don’t ever want to see him on the field again." Levine has denied this and the surgeon has yet to be heard from.
This is the most serious allegation of all. The most nefarious interpretation is that Levine suggested that the surgeon botch the surgery so Rodriguez would never play again. If that occurred, the theory goes, the Yankees could collect on the insurance policy that covers the balance of Rodriguez’s contract. It sounds like insurance fraud. Was Tacopina suggesting this? On the other hand, this statement, even if true, could mean only that Levine was expressing the fervent hope of many Yankee fans: that Rodriguez simply go away.
There is even a more frightening possibility: what if the Yankees did the things that Tacopina claims and what if Rodriguez did all the things that MLB and the Yankees claim? That might be enough to shake any fan’s confidence in the Yankees and MLB. It’s a possibility few of us want to consider.