Baseball only with A-Rod? Seems most unlikely

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees looks on from

Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees looks on from the dugout in the first inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 21, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

It's a noble idea, putting the lawyers away and playing baseball.

Maybe in a perfect world, where Alex Rodriguez wasn't suing his own team doctors and the GM wasn't calling him a liar and Matt Lauer wasn't being used as a TV pawn by Major League Baseball, this could all be shelved for the next six weeks as the Yankees chase a playoff spot.

We're just waiting to see who delivers the next letter: Kelly Ripa or Charlie Rose.



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As much as A-Rod wanted us to believe Wednesday that he was "shutting down'' the drama surrounding his 211-game suspension, this story is just too big to be contained on the field. Is it even possible for Rodriguez to muzzle Joseph Tacopina, the lawyer hired to change the conversation from PEDs to suggesting some unholy alliance between the Yankees and Bud Selig?

Keeping quiet isn't on Tacopina's resume. It's not what he does. And try as he might, A-Rod can't help but be a great target. For pitchers. For MLB officials. Heck, for the Yankees. There will be more shots taken him, and as soon as that happens, his side will retaliate.

Remember how this all started. Let's go back to Aug. 5, that magical day in Chicago when Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games at 3 p.m. and batting cleanup at 8. After his first game, he actually said he was done discussing the suspension. Baseball only. "That's all I'm going to talk about,'' he said.

Since that day, we'd conservatively put the conversation at 20 percent baseball and 80 percent under the category marked "other.'' Last weekend in Boston, with so much talk about labrum tears and botched MRIs, the discussion was more suited for a courtroom than the Fenway Park clubhouse.

And Rodriguez gladly indulged us. Standing in front of his locker at 1 a.m. Monday, A-Rod went right down the list, name-dropping Tony Bosch, Anthony Galea, Bryan T. Kelly and even Marc Philippon. For those just joining us, Bosch ran Biogenesis, Galea is a convicted PED smuggler and the other two are hip surgeons.

To his credit, Rodriguez answered every question -- to varying degrees -- and kept the Yankees' bus to Logan Airport waiting for about 20 minutes.

But now A-Rod believes the best course is to try again with the baseball-first mentality. He's never been great at that, which is why we're skeptical about buying in this time. Still, it's his show. "I've shut everything down,'' he said. "I think it's the best thing to do for all of us, to focus on the game.''

Distraction or not, A-Rod has helped the Yankees since his return. After getting swept by the White Sox, they've gone 10-3 against the Tigers, Angels, Red Sox and Blue Jays. Joe Girardi chose to give him a breather Wednesday night, but Rodriguez is batting .296 (16-for-54) with a .387 on-base percentage and two home runs in 14 games.

The question is whether a 38-year-old on patched-up hips can hold up through the next 36 games. And if A-Rod eventually fails to produce on the field, will that lead to more noise off it? We won't know until we get there, even as he pledges to be a Boy Scout for the time being.

"The playoffs are what we're thinking about right now,'' Rodriguez said. "That's the reason why I shut everything down.''

Yet A-Rod's camp is proceeding with the medical grievance against the Yankees and malpractice suit against team doctor Christopher Ahmad. The plan is just not to talk about those actions -- publicly -- as everyone awaits the arbitration hearing, still weeks away.

With all the trash talking to this point, what was the endgame? This is not an election, where voters have to be swayed. And neither side appears ready to buckle and work toward a settlement. Ultimately, the decision comes down to arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who will have the last word.

Despite A-Rod's vow, don't expect peace and quiet. We've heard it all before.