Perhaps Yanks, A-Rod have a future together
David LennonDavid Lennon
David Lennon has been a staff writer for Newsday since
So that's it?
After months of fighting a two-front war against the Yankees and Bud Selig, then throwing his own union under the bus, Alex Rodriguez is just going to take his pile of legal briefs and go home?
In two separate email statements Friday, Major League Baseball and the Players Association notified us that Rodriguez has dropped his lawsuits against both organizations. In other words, A-Rod has decided to wave the white flag and accept his suspension for the entire 2014 season, including playoffs.
MLB's statement said, in part, that "Mr. Rodriguez's actions show his desire to return the focus to the play of our great game." The union added that A-Rod "has done the right thing" by withdrawing his lawsuit.
Sounds good. And we'd like to believe it. But unconditional surrender is not something we've come to expect from Rodriguez, who had pledged to take this battle to whatever courtroom would listen.
Despite the overwhelming odds against him, A-Rod still had a few legal options left -- and an army of lawyers at his disposal. Instead, he chose to backpedal, and maybe -- just maybe -- he also salvaged whatever slim chance he might have in the future of resuming his disgraced baseball career.
Remember, this is only a one-year suspension, not a lifetime ban. A-Rod has three additional seasons left, along with another $61 million, remaining on his Yankees contract.
Rodriguez turns 39 this July, so the clock is ticking. But Derek Jeter will be 40 in June, and no one ever doubts The Captain's ability to defy his own mortality.
We know what you're thinking: The difference is that Rodriguez relied on chemical assistance, something that he presumably no longer will benefit from.
A-Rod didn't issue his own statement Friday, nor did any of his lawyers. In his few recent comments, however, Rodriguez sounded as if he could be thinking big picture rather than a drawn-out slugfest with his employers.
Last month, he told reporters in Mexico City that MLB "could have done me a favor" with the suspension.
"I think 2014 will be a year to rest," Rodriguez said then. "Mentally, physically prepare myself for the future and begin the next chapter of my life."
It was a backhanded slap at MLB, but for the first time, Rodriguez was making sense, and that was only days after filing his twin lawsuits. Did he finally realize that his scorched-earth policy could result in a career-ending backlash from Bud Selig and the Yankees?
We might never know that for sure. Even when Rodriguez eventually does address Friday's developments, he'll skirt anything that remotely would be construed as an apology or admission of guilt. And there already has been plenty of damage done.
Rodriguez still has a lawsuit pending against the Yankees' medical team, and the name-calling between his attorneys and team president Randy Levine got very personal at times. As for Selig, he may be done as commissioner after this year, but all you need to know about the relationship between A-Rod and the commissioner can be summed up in that original 211-game suspension. Or Selig's view that he was being charitable by not pushing for a lifetime ban.
Regardless, Rodriguez is free to return in 2015, and we doubt that the Yankees know what they plan to do with him after this season. After they blew past the $189-million luxury-tax threshold this offseason, we were reminded that money remains no object for the Yankees, and if eating the rest of Rodriguez's contract buys them some peace of mind, it's not beyond the realm of possibility.
But as long as Kelly Johnson is manning third base for the Yankees, maybe bringing back Rodriguez, even at age 40, doesn't seem like such an awful idea. Plus, think of the ratings bonanza for YES. Love him or hate him, people can't stop watching A-Rod. Or reading about him.
Oh, and perhaps one additional olive branch: Rodriguez's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, told Newsday's Steven Marcus that Rodriguez will not attend spring training in Tampa, backing off his initial threat to do so.
So was Friday a retreat by A-Rod, or merely the first stage in setting up a return?
It's too early to tell. But we're sure about one thing. Don't mistake A-Rod's being suspended for a season as going away.