Alex Rodriguez faces disciplinary action from Yankees
After ducking reporters the previous night, Alex Rodriguez said Saturday that his Bronx homecoming was "awesome" and an "amazing experience," which sounded a bit strange coming from someone who was booed as much as he was cheered.
The Yankees' recent treatment of their $275-million man, however, does not leave much open to interpretation. The team has disciplined Rodriguez for insubordinate behavior during his rehab assignment, according to sources, but he has yet to be fined as part of that punishment. ESPN NY reported that Rodriguez ultimately could face fines of more than $150,000.
Brian Cashman reportedly hand-delivered a disciplinary letter to Rodriguez before Friday's game -- the third baseman's 2013 Yankee Stadium debut -- as an official reprimand for actions that include skipping a rehab game on July 12 and going outside the team's medical staff for a second opinion without authorization. Sources said the letter also was sent to Rodriguez's attorney, David Cornwell, along with Major League Baseball and the Players Association.
Rodriguez already has filed an appeal of his 211-game PED suspension, and if he eventually is fined by the Yankees, that also would be subject to appeal, according to the collective-bargaining agreement.
Rodriguez did not play in Saturday's 9-3 loss to the Tigers. Joe Girardi cited the need to rest him after the "quick turnaround" from Friday's 10-inning game. But A-Rod did hold court with reporters Saturday morning and denied receiving any disciplinary letter from the Yankees.
"No, it has not happened," he said. "Maybe they sent it to my lawyers. But I'm not really going to talk about that."
Just because Rodriguez finally has returned to the Yankees, which he did Monday in Chicago only hours after being hit with the suspension, does not mean his off-the-field issues with the team's front office have vanished.
Cashman has been angered by Rodriguez's repeated acts of defiance, and it now appears that the team was just waiting to take action once MLB chose its own disciplinary action for A-Rod's alleged involvement with Biogenesis.
The Yankees have been frustrated with Rodriguez at many points during his lengthy rehab from a second hip surgery, but two specific instances escalated into punishable offenses.
The first occurred July 12, when Rodriguez met with MLB's investigators and then did not show up at George M. Steinbrenner Field for his rehab game with Class A Tampa.
The game was rained out, but the Yankees still considered Rodriguez a no-show, which reportedly is the basis for fining him the equivalent of one day's pay.
On top of that, Rodriguez disputed the reason he was put back on the DL on July 22, the day he was scheduled to rejoin the team in Texas.
What further irritated the Yankees was that Rodriguez was the one who complained about the quadriceps issue in the first place and then -- after being put on the DL -- insisted he was healthy.
The Yankees' medical staff diagnosed Rodriguez with a grade 1 quadriceps strain after a doctor's visit and MRI. But A-Rod apparently wasn't satisfied. Not only did he seek his own second opinion from a doctor who is not on the approved list, and not only did the Yankees say they weren't notified before Rodriguez sought the second opinion, but the doctor -- Michael Gross, an orthopedic surgeon from Hackensack University Medical Center -- proceeded to trumpet his opinion to every reporter and radio station in the metropolitan area.
Rodriguez also went on WFAN to dispute the Yankees' claims, insisting he was healthy, and that infuriated team officials. Rodriguez already had been warned by the Yankees about going on the radio and contradicting the club's statements, according to a source, but he still ignored them.
At that time, a source said the Yankees again planned to discipline Rodriguez, but they had yet to do so before Friday's letter. Why team officials waited until Friday to inform Rodriguez of the fines was not immediately clear, but his night didn't get much better after that.
During the pregame introductions, Rodriguez was booed more than cheered, at about a 60-40 split, but that ratio improved in his favor on his walks up to the plate. Those at-bats, however, produced the loudest boos of the night as Rodriguez went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts before being removed for defensive replacement Jayson Nix in the ninth inning.
The Yankees won, 4-3, in dramatic fashion when Brett Gardner slapped an RBI single through the left side of the infield to drive in Nix. But when the players left the dugout to swarm Gardner, Rodriguez was not spotted among the celebration. He also left the clubhouse later that night without talking to reporters.
When asked Saturday morning about his treatment by the crowd, Rodriguez responded as if he had been treated more like a returning World Series MVP than a rogue player with a 211-game PED suspension hanging over his head.
"The fans are incredible," he said. "There was such great energy and such a great response. It was pretty overwhelming. I was having a hard time keeping my emotions in check.
"It was so much better than I would have even dreamed of. I just felt the love walking around the city, the way people are treating me -- pretty incredible."
Despite his rosy appraisal of Friday night, A-Rod did acknowledge a rather enthusiastic faction of boo-birds at his own stadium. When asked how it compared to his "worst fears" leading up to the debut, A-Rod again put a more positive spin on it.
"For the last 14 years, there's always been a mix," he said. "Do you ever get 100 percent of anything? Even in Chicago, it was a mix. Boston's going to be a mix. Well, maybe there's no mix in Boston. But I was overwhelmed. [Friday] was a day I'll never forget."
While sitting out Saturday's game, Rodriguez had plenty of time to reflect, but life isn't going to get much easier for A-Rod with Justin Verlander starting for the Tigers in Sunday's series finale. At least he'll be well-rested.
"I'm just trying to be proactive in this," Girardi said. "To make sure that we don't run him into the ground where he ends up hurting something else."
Rodriguez may be fine physically at the moment, but it seems as though he's done irreparable damage to his relationship with the Yankees' front office. And that situation is looking as if it will get worse rather than better in the weeks leading up to his eventual arbitration showdown with MLB.