Yanks tell Alex Rodriguez: 'Put up or shut up' after claims of persecution
BOSTON - The simmering tension between Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees boiled over Saturday as the team's president told the third baseman's camp to "put up or shut up" after Rodriguez's lawyer alleged that the Yankees conspired to sabotage his health and potentially end his career.
Joseph Tacopina, the attorney hired two weeks ago by Rodriguez, told The New York Times that the Yankees "rolled him out there like an invalid'' during the 2012 playoffs and hid the results of an MRI that showed the torn hip labrum that Rodriguez eventually needed to have surgically repaired in January.
The lawyer also said Yankees president Randy Levine told the orthopedic surgeon, Bryan Kelly of the Hospital for Special Surgery, that he didn't "ever want to see him on the field again.''
Reached Saturday by Newsday, Levine categorically denied Tacopina's statements and said the Yankees gladly would release all of Rodriguez's medical records -- with his authorization -- to let the truth be known. He also said there are transcripts of those phone calls and other witnesses in on those calls who will support him.
"The one medical record we don't have is from the time when Dr. [Anthony] Galea treated him,'' Levine said, mentioning the former A-Rod physician who pleaded guilty to smuggling performance-enhancing drugs into the United States. "Since he's put his medical condition into play, he should tell the truth about his relationship with Dr. Galea.''
After Saturday's game, a 6-1 loss to the Red Sox, Rodriguez mostly deflected questions about Tacopina's comments, saying he needed to read them first.
When asked about Levine's reference to Galea, A-Rod turned icy in his reply about releasing records. "OK,'' he said. "When the time is right.''
Rodriguez also refused to back up Tacopina's statement that the Yankees knowingly played him with a debilitating injury. "I don't even want to think about what happened last year,'' he said. "I just want to focus on what's happening this year.
"I'm not saying what should have happened or should not have happened. I just know that I feel much better this year than I did last year.''
Levine challenged Tacopina's accusations that the Yankees' treatment of A-Rod was inadequate. But if Rodriguez believes that indeed was the case, Levine insisted he should file a grievance. Said Levine, "Put up or shut up.''
As for the timing of Tacopina's comments, Levine said it was "disappointing but not surprising'' that A-Rod's camp chose to take this route with an arbitration case still pending regarding his 211-game suspension.
"They don't want to discuss the only relevant question,'' Levine said, "and that is, did Alex use performance-enhancing drugs or not?''
Rodriguez, in more subtle ways, has butted heads with the Yankees over their recent diagnosis of the grade 1 quadriceps strain that extended his rehab stint by two weeks before his Aug. 5 return.
On two separate occasions, he took those feelings public with guest appearances on WFAN to say he was healthy enough to play when the Yankees said he was not.
Rodriguez even went outside the team's own medical staff for a second opinion without permission, and the Yankees later informed him that he will be fined for that after the appeal hearing for his 211-game suspension.
But Tacopina's allegations have taken the medical disputes to a new level, and in doing so, may have caused irreversible harm to the rapidly deteriorating relationship between Rodriguez and the Yankees.
When asked Saturday about that, and his current feelings for Levine, Rodriguez did little to alter that perception.
"It's business as usual for me,'' he said. "I have a job to do and that's to go out and play third base and do the best I can. I'm doing that right now.''
Tacopina also told the Times that he has copies of "very damaging'' emails between Levine and Rodriguez that should help his client in his efforts to overturn the suspension.
The lawyer suggested that Rodriguez has been unduly persecuted by the Yankees and Major League Baseball in order to void the $86 million left on his contract, which runs through 2017.
"Our investigation, and everything we've done, is designed for only one purpose, and that is to find players in violation of the collective-bargaining agreement,'' Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president of economics and league affairs, told Newsday. "We don't care about Mr. Rodriguez's contract.''
For the past month, starting with his rehab stay at Double-A Trenton, Rodriguez has hinted at an attack on his contract. But he never got into the specifics that Tacopina did with the Times, and Rodriguez even warned reporters during Friday's dugout news conference to "expect bigger and bigger stories to come out every day.''
That was in response to a "60 Minutes'' report that said Rodriguez's "inner circle'' leaked the names of other players on the Biogenesis list, including Ryan Braun and Francisco Cervelli, his Yankees teammate. Rodriguez denied that report, but by then, he knew full well that Tacopina's assault on the Yankees and MLB would appear the next morning.
"I just think it's ironic this guy, of all people, is complaining of our tactics,'' Manfred said. "After all the stuff that Mr. Rodriguez is trying to cover up or make even worse by deflecting to other players. And we're the ones that are doing the wrong thing?''