Alex Rodriguez surprised many people this week when he called off his attack dogs on the day his attorney, Joseph Tacopina, was scheduled to take another bite out of MLB. While Rodriguez claims he acted out of a team-first spirit, the reality is that he acted out of self-interest because MLB's clever tactics had boxed him in and he could do nothing other than, in the words of Brian Cashman, STFU.
While Rodriguez may have a stable of top-flight attorneys, MLB's attorneys are no slouches and proved it this week. Their tactical master stroke made Team A-Rod look foolish, silenced the normally irrepressible Tacopina and ended the media madness, at least for now. Not a bad day's work.
Tacopina had been running wild. He attacked the Yankees, accusing them of mismanaging Rodriguez's hip injury last season and alleging that they conspired to keep Rodriguez off the field so he would retire. He attacked MLB and its Biogenesis investigation in more general terms, claiming the proofs were weak and Anthony Bosch was not believable. In fact, he said he is so anxious to get at Bosch that he would cross-examine him for free.
On Monday, MLB turned the tables. When Tacopina told Today host Matt Lauer that the confidentiality provisions of the CBA and Joint Drug Agreement prevented him from saying what he wanted to say, Lauer surprised him with a letter from MLB offering to waive these confidentiality protections. Tacopina, for once at a loss for words, refused to agree. Later, he promised a response on Wednesday. Given his prior pronouncements, his response was expected to be loud and aggressive.
Instead, the response we got was Tacopina's silence because Rodriguez had told him to end the media blitz. "I'm shutting it all down," Rodriguez told ESPN. "I'm shutting it all down, just focusing on baseball, just baseball. We have 30-something games? That's the only focus. That's coming from me."
While Rodriguez tried to shroud his words with a team-first aura, he was boxed in.
What he really feared was MLB releasing its investigative findings to the public under a little-known provision of the Drug Agreement. The Drug Agreement makes confidential most matters concerning PED use and PED cases. This information can be released only if the player consents. These provisions severely restricted how MLB could respond to Tacopina's allegations. However, the Joint Agreement allows MLB to release information "to the extent necessary to respond to any inaccurate or misleading claims" by a player that could "undermine the integrity and/or credibility" of the program.
Tacopina had been careful to attack the MLB investigation in only general terms. He had never denied that Rodriguez had used PEDs and admitted that Rodriguez had a relationship with Bosch. If he had denied either, he would have called MLB's case a sham and might have opened the door for the release of MLB's case. Monday's ambush upped the ante. It made it appear that MLB's case must be solid because Tacopina wouldn't agree to release it. Tacopina's next move could only have been a sharper and more specific attack on MLB's case. That, however, might have led to MLB invoking the Drug Agreement's fair-response clause and releasing its investigation. That is the last thing that Team A-Rod wants.
The only strategy left was to STFU. To get the most mileage out of his silence, however, Rodriguez tried to make it seem that he was acting out of nobility and concern for his teammates. Many, however, saw through that. Rodriguez was the one who authorized Tacopina's media blitz in the first place. To now seek accolades for shutting it down is like an arsonist asking to be treated as a hero for dousing the fire that he himself had set.