David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
For months now, Alex Rodriguez has been treated like some estranged relative of the Yankees' family. We all have them. The one who calls or emails occasionally, but there never seems to be any real interest, from either side, in getting together. It just feels like too much of a hassle, too much drama.
The Yankees have kept a comfortable distance from A-Rod for the entirety of spring training, more than six weeks, all the while pretending it's perfectly normal. Rodriguez even had a corner locker in the Steinbrenner Field clubhouse, for no apparent purpose, other than maybe to give Robinson Cano some extra storage space.
And now we're supposed to believe that Rodriguez will attend Monday's Opening Day ceremonies at Yankee Stadium and be introduced in front of a sellout crowd, with the combined media hordes of Boston and New York on hand?
So says Joe Girardi, who expects Rodriguez to be in the Bronx, even as his own general manager remains noncommittal on the whole subject.
"I'm not going to say either way," Cashman said yesterday, "because it's not something I'm focused on whether Alex will be there Opening Day or not. He's not someone that's a player for us right now."
Neither is Mark Teixeira, who is not anticipated back from a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist until mid-May at the earliest. But Teixeira left Tampa with the team after Thursday's final Grapefruit League game and was looking forward to getting some love from the Bronx faithful during Monday's festivities.
The plan is for Teixeira to be seen by the Yankees' medical staff while in New York, and the first baseman won't be booked on a return trip to Florida until he's closer to playing in games. But that's not unlike the situation with A-Rod, who according to the Yankees has shuttled between New York and Miami to rehab from hip surgery.
It would be easy enough for Rodriguez to swing by the Stadium -- and it also would be a disaster. The Yankees successfully dodged any and all Rodriguez-induced mayhem for the length of spring training, no small feat for them. With apologies to John Sterling, dropping an A-bomb from A-Rod on Opening Day would be pointless.
The time to test these PED-polluted waters was down in Tampa, where the media surge could be restrained to some degree. Rodriguez could have popped in, delivered a few non-answers and denials, then vanished again into rehab oblivion. The Yankees would have washed their hands of A-Rod for another few months and wouldn't have had to worry about him until he crept closer to his anticipated late July return.
But that opportunity is gone, and for all the Yankees' hedging on A-Rod possibly joining them later in spring training, it seems clear now they never entertained that scenario. With the season opener only three days away, Girardi is doing it again with A-Rod, if only as a reminder that he's still being paid by the Yankees.
When Girardi was asked if he thinks coming to Opening Day would be helpful to Rodriguez, he spoke more in general about all of his injured players.
"It's always beneficial for the guys to feel part of something," Girardi said. "I'd always rather the guys be there than not be there. I'd also rather they be active."
Sure. Biogenesis or not, the Yankees would be ecstatic to have a healthy -- or at least functional -- Rodriguez in Monday's lineup, which against Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester likely will have Jayson Nix replacing him at third base, Kevin Youkilis subbing for Teixeira, Eduardo Nuñez filling in for Derek Jeter and Vernon Wells taking over for Curtis Granderson.
It's doubtful that Jeter and Granderson will make an appearance on Opening Day because they have baseball-related activities to do at the team's minor-league complex. Rodriguez, however, has plenty of time on his hands. The biggest thing on his schedule these days, other than rehab, is an eventual sit-down with MLB officials in New York to discuss his appearance on the Biogenesis buyers list.
A person familiar with the investigation said MLB soon will call in players linked to the PED-tainted clinic, but as of this week, nothing had been officially scheduled. That's probably fine with the Yankees, who would prefer to keep A-Rod's mess at arm's length for as long as possible.
They had plenty of spring training drama anyway as they dealt with a rash of critical injuries. As Cashman said, "I got a lot going on."
Opening Day will be the same. No sense adding A-Rod to that list.