Amid all the injuries afflicting the Yankees and a 1-7 slump that included a sweep by the Mets and a home series loss to the Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez's contract and uncertain future weigh heaviest on the franchise. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner on Monday admitted to his share of disappointment with the recent trajectory of A-Rod's career.
"There have, no doubt, been times when we've been disappointed in him and we've conveyed that to him,'' Steinbrenner said before Monday night's game against Cleveland at the Stadium. "He understands that. But everybody is human. Everybody makes mistakes."
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Rodriguez, who has four years and $114 million left on his contract after this year, is rehabbing from hip surgery with no definite timetable to return. General manager Brian Cashman recently said A-Rod hasn't lived up to his 10-year deal worth $275 million and likely won't perform like a superstar when he returns.
"We just hope he comes back healthy as he did in '09 after the surgery," Steinbrenner said, "and we hope he contributes in a big way."
As for whether Rodriguez has lived up to his contract, Steinbrenner said: "That's a philosophical argument. It's a big contract. But we all hope he's going to act like a Yankee and do the best he can to live up to it. How about that?"
Has A-Rod "acted like a Yankee?"
Steinbrenner said: "We'll find out when he comes back. He's been working hard . . . He knows what it means to be a Yankee. He knows what we expect of him. He knows what his teammates expect of him, without a doubt."
Rodriguez's name has been linked to Major League Baseball's investigation of the Biogenesis clinic in Miami that allegedly was dealing in performance-enhancing drugs, but Steinbrenner said: "There's innocent until proven guilty, right? We haven't heard a thing."
Steinbrenner was in from Tampa for the announcement of an affiliation between the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and the Big Ten Conference beginning in 2014, but the focus quickly shifted to the Yankees' slide into a tie for third place in the AL East before their win Monday night.
Asked how his late father might have reacted, considering his abhorrence of even exhibition losses to the Mets, Steinbrenner said: "Well, they are the crosstown rivals. But I concern myself maybe a little bit more with the teams in our division. You have to. Does it feel good? Noooo. Does it sting? Yes. Absolutely, absolutely."
Steinbrenner praised the Yankees' reserves for a good job in the absence of injured starters. "We're three games out in the toughest division in baseball," he said. "But we do need to start hitting. They know that."
On related topics, Steinbrenner said there's no news on a contract extension for second baseman Robinson Cano, and he linked his goal of holding the payroll to $189 million in 2014 to the progress of the organization's young players. Steinbrenner also expressed support for manager Joe Girardi.
"Look, the last week has hurt," Steinbrenner said. "It's not a fun place to be when you're slumping. But let's try to keep the perspective on the fact we're very much in this fight and we're right at the top."