By Ernie Palladino
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But he’s been in the headlines all week.
Poor A-Rod. That enormous contract keeps following him, even as he rehabs his bum hip in Tampa.
Over the past few days not one, but two high-ranking Yankees executives have come out with statements so obvious that one wonders whether they should be run in for wasting oxygen. General manager Brian Cashman and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner both referenced the mega-deal that still has four years and $86 million remaining on it as they called Rodriguez, in so many words, an underachiever.
“It’s an enormous contract and I think that, I would say probably, he couldn’t live up to it,” Cashman said on Sunday.
“There have no doubt been times when we’ve been disappointed in him, and we’ve conveyed that to him,” Steinbrenner said on Monday.
It was Cashman who laid out the ultimate insult in his hope that A-Rod would come back as “an above-average” player, a miles-wide gap from his former superstar status.
Ouch on all ends. For A-Rod, it’s a real slap at a guy who has put together Hall of Fame credentials throughout his regular seasons. We won’t talk about his dismal playoff performances. And as for the Cashman-Steinbrenner tag team, they should both be slapped for missing the point entirely.
Rodriguez is not a disappointment because he failed statistically to live up to the 10-year, $275 million that the Yankees agreed to hand him five years ago, though that 3-for-25 (.120) batting average last postseason could certainly bolster that case. Nor has he disappointed because his body now creaks and snaps with age.
The fact is that Rodriguez never, ever lived up to his deal. That went out the window as soon as he admitted in 2009 to using steroids earlier in his career. And now that he’s part of the investigation into the Biogenesis clinic, he is doubly guilty — not of underachievement, but of contractual fraud.
Steinbrenner can repeat “innocent until proven guilty” all he wants as far as the current investigation goes. If nothing else, A-Rod suffers from guilt by association. Given his previous admission, the third baseman should have viewed PEDs and other such substances like a recovering alcoholic treats a cheap vodka and club. You steer clear of the bars and happy hours, the chemists and fountain-of-youth clinics where such things become available for the asking.
A-Rod didn’t do that, even though his contract, like all others, implicitly demands he do so. The fact that Steinbrenner and Cashman are still waiting for him to return instead of searching for a way to get out of the deal proves even more disappointing than Rodriguez’s postseason record.
The two are better off concentrating on the clean, healthy guys on their roster, as opposed to anxiously waiting for Rodriguez to return at some point after the All-Star break. Mark Teixeira’s grand slam in Monday’s win over the Indians (and then his second homer on Tuesday) showed that he’s ready to contribute — without chemical assistance. Though he’ll admit to anybody that he, too, can’t live up to his eight-year contract — really, who is worth $180 million? — he has at least come out vehemently against PEDs. Whatever he does, he’ll do it fair and square.
Same with Kevin Youkilis, though the wait for him to do something significant since his return last Friday continues.
In the meantime, Cashman and Steinbrenner continue to wait on Rodriguez with lowered expectations, no doubt silently hoping that the investigation which has now involved their ever-falling star third baseman drags out long enough so as not to interfere with his return.
They shouldn’t be disappointed with anything that A-Rod does on the field after that.
He’s already let them down off of it.
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