David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
Brian Cashman has handled plenty of awkward moments during his tenure as the Yankees' general manager. He's better than most at it, too. But Wednesday's pregame session to address the latest Alex Rodriguez fiasco -- this one starring Cashman himself -- may have been the most humbling of them all.
It didn't take place in front of the dugout or backed up against a concrete runway wall, the usual GM haunts. No, this time Cashman was forced to the stage, in front of the microphone, and he fidgeted some on his chair. "Howdy," Cashman said, a bit uncomfortably. "How y'all doing today?"
Immediately, it became clear. Those expecting Round 2 between the GM and A-Rod were about to be disappointed. Cashman landed a whopper of a back-page punch with his "shut the ---- up" haymaker at Rodriguez a day earlier, but this fight was now officially over.
All that was left was the apology. Here was Cashman, falling on his sword in public fashion, while a few hours earlier, down in Tampa, Rodriguez chatted with Hal Steinbrenner at the team's minor-league complex, where they supposedly discussed A-Rod's Twitter no-no.
Or at least that's what they told Cashman. Steinbrenner and A-Rod could have been doing Pilates together for all he knew. And if so, would Cashman really be surprised? Steinbrenner and the Yankees' $275-million man operate at an entirely different pay grade than the GM, and we don't blame Cashman for being endlessly annoyed by it.
Cashman is trying to run a baseball team, and through no fault of his own, is constantly getting interrupted by A-Rod Inc. All he wanted to do Tuesday night was focus on the Kuroda-Darvish showdown. Instead, Cashman had to deal with Rodriguez going rogue on Twitter.
It's bad enough that A-Rod has added social media to his other team-irritating activities, such as getting entangled in the whole Biogenesis scandal. But now he's contradicting Cashman for the amusement of his followers -- not to mention every major media outlet on the planet -- and that crossed the line.
"It was an unnecessary distraction," Cashman said.
Cashman already knows this, but Wednesday's events provided a refresher course. As far as the Yankees are concerned, Rodriguez pretty much does what he wants -- outside the Bronx -- and there's only two things that can get his attention. The first is the looming threat of a 100-game suspension for any alleged involvement with Biogenesis. The second? His own surgically-repaired body breaking down. Permanently.
The GM denies he's rooting for either one, despite the potential for saving millions of dollars and the added benefit of not having to deal with Rodriguez, maybe ever again. Would you blame him if he did?
Cashman refused to disguise his feelings when asked about a rift with Rodriguez. "It comes and goes," he said. But also debunked the conspiracy theories about the Yankees not wanting A-Rod or hoping for the suspension.
"False and false," Cashman said. "We have insurance on Alex, period. He's not being slowed down. We need him yesterday. But we can't have him unless he's ready."
And who will determine that? The Yankees' medical staff? Or @AROD, you-know-who's Twitter account? We can't wait for the next round of Instagram photos featuring Rodriguez and Dr. Bryan Kelly windsurfing at Clearwater Beach.
Anxious to put a bow on this mess, a Yankees spokesman gathered the media corps minutes before Wednesday's first pitch to announce A-Rod had called Cashman around 5:30. Team president Randy Levine also took part (chaperone?) and the spokesman claimed, "We're all back on track."
Whatever. The Yankees don't have any choice but to play nice with A-Rod, who is signed through 2017 and due $103 million.
With the news of Mark Teixeira going under the knife with season-ending wrist surgery, the Yankees need Rodriguez now more than ever. Like him or not.