By Sweeny Murti
» More Columns
Yes, I understand how badly you want Alex Rodriguez to just go away. Unfortunately for all of us, No. 1, it’s just not that simple, and No. 2, it’s probably not going to happen anytime soon.
Let’s take the possible scenarios one at a time.
The Yankees void the contract and get rid of A-Rod without owing him a single penny:
This one is probably the least likely. While the Yankees have looked through A-Rod’s contract for a provision that would allow them to simply relinquish all rights and legal obligations to their walking disaster of a third baseman, it is the longest of long shots that they can find something AND make it stick.
The language in the Collective Bargaining Agreement is what determines penalties for drug-related offenses, and individual player contracts cannot supersede the CBA. A-Rod makes more money and is a more polarizing figure than any other player, but he is no different than a backup infielder on the Kansas City Royals who makes the league minimum when it comes to PED penalties.
Secondly, this is for all intents and purposes considered a first offense. A-Rod has only admitted to PED use from 2001-2003, when such use was not punishable as an offense against the CBA (who said A-Rod wasn’t smart?). All other speculation about his use of PEDs is not grounds for punishment. And I’ve got news for you — until this latest bombshell holds up with sufficient proof under MLB investigation, neither is this one.
If this does hold up and warrant suspension, A-Rod is protected by the CBA (agreed to by both owners and players, mind you) so that his suspension for a “first offense” will be 50 games and is not subject to further punishment from the Yankees. He would lose close to $8 million in salary, which is the real penalty here (so, yes he does lose something even though his suspension would be served while on the DL recovering from hip surgery).
If the Yankees wanted to challenge any of this and try to void the contract, the ensuing legal battle would be Super Bowl caliber, and chances are slimmer than slim that an arbitrator would not uphold the CBA. With little chance to win the fight, the Yankees are not likely to go down that road.
The Yankees are so fed up they simply release A-Rod from his contract:
This one sounds like the most fun, doesn’t it? Tell the cheater to get out and don’t let the door hit you in the fanny on the way out. While this is something that is feasible without legal wrangling, there is one minor snag with this plan–the Yankees would still owe A-Rod the full $114 million left on his contract.
Who cares, you say? Well if it’s your money, you would certainly care. And while the Steinbrenners have more money than you or I, they are not in the habit of lighting it on fire for no reason. We’re talking about more than five and a half times the amount of money the Yankees ate on A.J. Burnett’s contract.
And as long as the Yankees are paying the money, it will count against their payroll number. That means getting under the $189 million luxury tax threshold just got even harder, considering the $27.5 million hit you take outside of the guys who are actually playing for your team.
Other than that… it’s perfect.
Yes, the Yankees are privately angry and upset with the latest A-Rod fiasco. But they are not about to pay him off in full to go away.
Embarrassed by the whole scandal, A-Rod decides to voluntarily retire and forfeit the remaining $114 million on his contract:
Anyone with a half a brain would never take this option. And although A-Rod is often accused of having only half a brain, the half he has left certainly knows not to throw away this much money by quitting.
This isn’t about you or I having made enough money for a hundred lifetimes already. It’s about the arrogance and pride that brought a player like A-Rod to this point to begin with. They don’t just quit and walk away. Even if there was no money to give up, quitting is not something that fits into the mentality of an athlete like this.
Could he be so mentally defeated that he doesn’t feel he can play the game without taking whatever he was taking? I guess that’s possible, but A-Rod surrounds himself with a lot of people, none of which would ever advise him to walk away from a hundred million dollars.
You might want him to just go away. And it’s all monopoly money to me and you anyway. But this isn’t likely to happen either. A-Rod is many things, but a financially satisfied quitter is not one of them.
So, somewhere between paying him nothing and paying him everything lie the next three scenarios.
A-Rod is deemed physically unable to play again. He collects his full salary, and the Yankees get relief from their insurance policy:
A-Rod’s second major hip surgery seems to be the perfect cover, doesn’t it? Just roll him out in a wheelchair and tell him to cry about how he tried to come back but just isn’t physically capable anymore of playing the game he loves.
This is one that seems reasonable, but we are only at the beginning of a long road towards this possible outcome. This latest hip surgery happened only two weeks ago. The doctor who operated on A-Rod said he feels a complete recovery is possible, to the point where A-Rod can be a productive hitter again. He estimated full recovery to be six months.
So, over the next six months A-Rod works to rehab from this surgery and come back. It could take longer. If he doesn’t make it back, then theoretically the Yankees can deem him unable to play, let him rot away and be reimbursed for a large chunk of the remaining dollars on his contract.
Sounds easy, but it’s a little more complicated than that. A-Rod and the Yankees would likely need more than one independent physician to make the determination that he can no longer perform. If it is indeed the case, there should be no problem. But they can’t just pick a quack and ask him to say A-Rod cant’ play so they can collect the insurance. That’s called fraud. And the insurance company will carefully review any and all medical records themselves, because… well, you know… that’s a lot of money to just take someone else’s word on.
Oh, and even if the Yankees are getting reimbursed through the insurance policy, they will still be stuck with a large number against the luxury tax threshold. It might not be the entire amount, but that is something to be determined down the road by MLB if it indeed gets that far. And he would also need to remain on the 40-man roster, like Albert Belle did with the Orioles for three years after his last game. Could be some roster snafus related to that in the future too.
Regardless, the actual medical determination of whether or not A-Rod can play is a long, long way off.
To combine this with the “void the contract” scenario because A-Rod’s hip condition is related to his PED use and therefore constitutes some sort of fraud…well, once again we have the doctor who performed the surgery who said that A-Rod’s condition is not the result of steroid use, rather it has to do with the shaping of his hip dating back to his teens. Proving otherwise does not appear likely.
The Yankees and A-Rod agree that they can no longer co-exist and they negotiate a buyout of the remaining money on his contract:
So what’s fair here… say 50 or 60 cents on the dollar? Have you met the Players Union, the most powerful union in sports history?
If this scandal continues to grow deeper, and despite endless rehab A-Rod’s hip does not get better, maybe both sides try to work out a number that the team can live with paying and the player can walk away with his head held high.
My guess is the union would wage a protracted legal battle before they ever took a penny less than the $114 million left on the deal, so a negotiation would be a painful and probably fruitless exercise. After all, if the Yankees are that gung-ho to get rid of him and move on, then why not just pay the full freight? At least that’s what the union would push for.
Once again, this is not a likely conclusion. At least not for another few years. Look how long it took the Mets to part ways with Jason Bay (with about one-seventh of the money at stake).
So, as I see it, here is the likely scenario:
A-Rod serves a suspension, completes his rehab, and attempts to come back. After that… undetermined:
This is the least satisfying outcome of all, which is probably why it is the most likely.
Let us not forget that until MLB completes its investigation, we are only talking about allegations, even if they are documented and believable. If the validity of these charges is upheld after due process, then A-Rod will likely be handed the standard 50-game suspension, serve it while he continues rehabbing from the hip injury, and prepare for a second half return just as the plan was a week ago before all this Tony Bosch stuff blew up.
What becomes of A-Rod after that is all to be determined by how he comes back. If he comes back even reasonably healthy he might be able to contribute. Granted, there are serious doubts considering what we now believe to be his expanded PED history. But the likelihood of any of the above scenarios playing out are slim at best, so this is the one we have to wait for. Is there any talent left in a (presumably) clean and surgically repaired Alex Rodriguez?
Even before the latest allegations, the productivity of a put-back-together A-Rod was a question mark. Now, there is absolutely no way to tell with any certainty what type of player this guy is. One thing is for certain: Barry Bonds* and Hank Aaron can sleep easy. The guy we thought could hit 800 home runs one day might not even make it past his current 647 this year.
He will almost certainly be washed up before the final five years of his contract are up. But the exact expiration date, that magic number we are all desperately searching for, is going to be very hard to predict. For all the legal and financial reasons listed above, that date won’t be tomorrow or next week or next month. And probably not even this year. This A-Rod mystery novel is getting crazier with each chapter. Will it ever end?
From the day A-Rod arrived he has been maddening in so many aspects for fans, media, managers, and teammates. Why should it be any different now?
OK, Yankees fans. Six scenarios. Which do you see happening — or hope will happen? Be heard in the comments…