The war of words and public jabs between Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees gets a little worse every time you think it may have reached the apex of weirdness. For the first time in seemingly forever, the only news out of both camps yesterday was that Rodriguez instructed his team of lawyers to scale back on the bombs they'd been constantly launching toward Team Yankees, including accusations of malpractice on the part of team doctors.
Medical grievances and malpractice are serious claims that could carry heavy consequences if they were proved to be correct. Of course, A-Rod isn't really the picture of credibility after his lawyers contradicted themselves this week on prior statements about just what the relationship was between Rodriguez and Biogenesis clinic owner Tony Bosch. There is a lot on the line for whichever side manages to emerge victorious from the trenches that have been dug on both sides.
What if the Yankees are right about Alex Rodriguez?
The Yankees stand behind everything that their medical team has done concerning A-Rod's hip injury that required offseason surgery and his quad injury sustained while rehabbing earlier this year. Their records, they say, will show that Rodriguez's MRI conducted in the playoffs last season will show that they weren't forcing an injured player to play for the sake of making him look worse. Rodriguez, the team claims, wasn't even complaining about the hip that later required surgery.
If the team is judged to be correct by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz or through settlement, it seems impossible that the working relationship between the two sides wouldn't be too damaged to make for a comfortable remainder of Rodriguez's contract. Part of that may be served with him away from the team, depending on what the result of A-Rod's suspension appeal becomes. Maybe he misses an entire season of games and the Yankees decide that they'd rather pay him off than welcome him back after that. Maybe an entire season of off time will render his nearly 40-year-old body incapable of returning to the field at the professional level. Either way, if it turns out that Rodriguez threw his team under the bus so publicly, a happy ending seems like the least likely of any scenario I can think of. There's always the possibility that Hal and Hank Steinbrenner feel that A-Rod still provides them the best chance to win for now but considering all the public sparring, they may decide that they have had enough.
The question may very well be whether or not the Steinbrenners think that the drama that will inevitably surround a player that accused the team and staff of major transgressions is worth whatever production their aging third baseman can provide. Voiding his contract is not likely to be a plausible fix, so they'd need to swallow their pride, pay him the money left on his contract for him to sit on a beach in Florida, and hope that it would allow them to move forward with their reputation only slightly damaged for the spectacle.
What if Alex Rodriguez is right about the Yankees?
On the flip side of the coin, there is the possibility that A-Rod is actually telling the truth. He has little to lose in the way of his reputation, but lying about such serious matters would only stand to make whatever time he has left with the Yankees an absolute hell for him. Is he so willing to deal with the consequences of burning bridges that may be necessary for crossing for the next three years in order to take down people like Dr. Christopher Ahmad and his career?
If A-Rod is telling the truth and everyone from Ahmad down is taking orders from the Steinbrenners to do whatever necessary to make A-Rod look finished as a professional player, then the franchise is in trouble. These are the sorts of scandals that ruin things from the ground up. What free agent would sign with the Yankees if it was somehow proven that even the medical staff was meddling for the sake of doing ownership's bidding? How could MLB allow the Steinbrenners to even maintain ownership of the team at that point?
That's a very dramatic scenario, of course, and not even one that we can gauge the probability of reality of because it seems so far-fetched. With his willingness to go all in on the matter with filing a medical grievance and tossing around accusations of malpractice, A-Rod is betting whatever peace he may be able to find as a member of the Yankees for the remainder of his contract on someone finding something that details the mismanagement of an injury. Maybe it's as small as not trusting that his quad injury was bad enough to be kept away from the field for as long as they said, prompting him to seek a second opinion from a doctor willing to shout his finding to the public on WFAN. Or maybe he feels that his hip injury in the 2012 ALDS was improperly handled. Whatever it is, if it's real despite being extremely difficult to prove, it's bad news.
Rodriguez's lawyers were given clearance from MLB to discuss all matters publicly without being subject to the confidentiality clause of the CBA, but it appears that A-Rod's team won't be taking them up on that offer. A day after that occured, Rodriguez reportedly tells his lawyers to scale back the offensive so that he can focus on baseball and making the playoffs. What changed so suddenly?
It's beyond impossible to know which side is telling the truth because trusting A-Rod or trusting the Steinbrenners seems a little like asking if you'd like to die by fire or by shark consumption. After all that has been said and done, it seems like finding out either side was truthful or huge liars wouldn't be the least bit shocking. If A-Rod is telling the truth, the Yankees, as a whole, may have gone too far down the rabbit hole of trying to get rid of him that they set everything in motion for a blowup of epic proportions. If the Yankees are telling the truth about A-Rod, he may have just ensured that 2013 is the last time he puts on the Yankee uniform again.
The only thing that is certain at this point is that at least one side has gone out of their way to make the other look very, very bad without cause because they both cannot be right. There's nothing to do at this point but wait for it all to come to a head whenever the matter is settled through mediation or by MLB's arbitrator later this year. Maybe today's call for a bit of peace will keep things quieter on the outside for a while but it seems like, regardless of that, things are still bubbling beneath the surface with both sides having already gone all in.