Joe Tacopina, an attorney for Alex Rodriguez, was caught off guard Monday morning when Matt Lauer surprised him with a letter from Major League Baseball on the "Today" show.
Lauer told Tacopina that signing the document would release both sides from the confidentiality provisions enforced by the Joint Drug Agreement, a move that would then make it open season on any records involved with Rodriguez's case.
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"This letter's nice," Tacopina said to Lauer. "They could have sent it to me last night and I would have been prepared to execute it."
But later in the day, Tacopina told Newsday the letter was a "cheap publicity stunt" and a "theatrical trap" that MLB set up hoping that he would commit a violation of the collective bargaining agreement by doing so.
"They know full well that they have to address that letter to the [player's union]," he said. "A waiver of any confidential clause would require that the MLBPA to be a party."
The MLBPA acknowledged that to be the case Monday, but Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for economics and league affairs, countered Tacopina by saying, "The Players Association has never stood in the way of an individual player publicly disclosing his own drug-testing history. We are more than happy to add a signature line for the MLBPA to my letter."
But the specifics of the letter itself seemed secondary to what in the grand scheme was another volley of shots fired between MLB and A-Rod's camp after a wild weekend in Boston.
One thing did blow up in Tacopina's face Monday. While appearing on CNN's "Situation Room" Tacopina said, "Clearly there was a relationship -- a consulting relationship" between Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch, founder of the Biogenesis clinic. That admission runs counter to what A-Rod's PR firm stated over the winter, when an ESPN report claimed Bosch had personally injected A-Rod with PEDs.
"The news report about a purported relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Anthony Bosch are not true," a spokesman for A-Rod said in late January. "He was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story, at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez, are not legitimate."
Consider that a self-inflicted wound for Rodriguez's side, which has been on the offensive since Friday, when a "60 Minutes" report accused A-Rod of leaking the names of Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli from Biogenesis' lists. The next day, after A-Rod promised "bigger and bigger stories" ahead, Tacopina alleged the Yankees had conspired to sabotage his health and potentially end his career.
That set off a war of words between Tacopina and Yankees president Randy Levine, who challenged Tacopina to "put up or shut up" with his supposed evidence. On Sunday, general manager Brian Cashman essentially called A-Rod a liar, and Rodriguez, after a 9-6 win over the Red Sox, talked at length about his lawyer's claims.
After Tacopina's aggressive tactics over the weekend, and Rodriguez repeatedly saying Sunday that he couldn't reveal more details because of confidentiality restrictions, MLB decided to overnight the letter to the "Today" show. Newsday obtained a copy of the letter, written by Manfred, that said in part:
"We will agree to waive those provisions as they apply to both Rodriguez and the Office of Commissioner of Baseball with respect to Rodriguez's entire history under the Program, including, but not limited to, his testing history, test results, violations of the Program, and all information and evidence relating to Rodriguez's treatment by Anthony Bosch, Anthony Galea and Victor Conte."
Still, it's not likely to be sent back by Tacopina, who kept attacking the 211-game suspension hanging over A-Rod. With the appeal hearing weeks away, and a decision not expected until November, Tacopina is making do with the court of public opinion.
"It's just unbelievable the notion that someone in that office thought 211 games would be fair when there's not another person with a brain in the rest of the world who . . . thinks, hey that sounds pretty fair and reasonable," Tacopina told Newsday. "It doesn't even fit their CBA. It doesn't even fit their JDA. According to them he's a first-time offender. So the whole thing has just become circuslike."
Later Monday, ESPN New York reported A-Rod's camp is preparing to file a malpractice suit against Yankees physician Christopher Ahmad for alleged mistreatment of Rodriguez's injured hip during last October's playoffs. On Sunday night, Rodriguez confirmed that a medical grievance was already in the works against the Yankees, but Cashman said earlier Sunday that the team had handled A-Rod correctly.
"We're not afraid of it," Cashman said of Rodriguez's allegations. "We have medical records -- you can't change them. I trust our doctors, and he's been seeing the best doctors you can possibly see. But it's hard for me to answer some of this stuff because it's so explosive."
Rodriguez looked comfortable answering questions under the big top late Sunday night. He was asked if he would ever be at peace with the Yankees when this was over.
"I hope so," said A-Rod, owed about $86 million by the Yankees through 2017. "I think we have the same goal, and the goal is to win. I'm feeling healthy. I think I can be very productive. I feel much different than I did last October. It was pretty embarrassing last October."
As for what's happening now, with him waging a multi-front war against his own team, he added, "It's a very challenging situation."