Before replacing Bud Selig as commissioner, Rob Manfred was Major League Baseball's point man in its prosecution of Alex Rodriguez during the Biogenesis investigation. More than a year later, however, Manfred almost sounded like an A-Rod fan Thursday at the conclusion of the owners' meetings in Manhattan.
"Look, I think Alex has done a great job re-entering a difficult situation," Manfred said. "Whenever a player is suspended, it's difficult to return to the field, and he's played well. Good for him. I'm pleased for him."
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The battle between MLB and Rodriguez over the season-long Biogenesis suspension was a bitter fight, but A-Rod apparently was able to smooth over his transition by meeting with Manfred before spring training began.
The only remaining dispute is with the Yankees, who contend they are not obligated to pay Rodriguez for the first of his home run milestones. The initial $6 million was triggered when A-Rod tied Willie Mays by hitting No. 660 earlier this month.
The Players Association says it will back Rodriguez if he chooses to appeal, and he has until the end of the month to do so. But Manfred said Thursday that the commissioner's office is not involved in that conflict because it is between the Yankees and Rodriguez. He did suggest, however, that the Yankees may have the high ground from a contractual standpoint.
"The Yankees have a well-founded legal position," Manfred said. "If there's a dispute over it, it will get handled in the ordinary course."
A day earlier, when Hal Steinbrenner addressed the A-Rod situation between meetings, he said the Yankees will follow the letter of the contract if they lose to Rodriguez on appeal.
"If there's any contractual obligations on our end, we're going to meet them," Steinbrenner said. "It's no different than any other contract."