By Ernie Palladino
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It seems like every time the Yankees get a bit of bad news, Alex Rodriguez is somehow lurking in the background.
The latest round has Mark Teixeira’s wounded wrist going under the knife — big surprise, right? — and finishing him for the season. Of course, A-Rod’s Twitter pronouncement Tuesday that he’s been cleared for rehab games offered diehards some second-half hope of replacing Teixeira’s missing production potential sooner than later.
Twenty-four hours later, after Brian Cashman air-tweeted an F-bomb for A-Rod to open up a big can of Shut-Up, published reports indicate Rodriguez has told the Yanks that he’s not healthy enough for any rehab assignments. That, the reports said, could end up with A-Rod retiring for medical reasons, and that would allow him to collect the remaining $114 million left on his contract regardless of whether MLB believes Anthony Bosch, Rodriguez’s old drug-supplier cousin Yuri Sucart, or anybody else connected with the Biogenesis investigation.
It’s basically a loophole A-Rod and his people might have found in the collective bargaining agreement. Baseball can suspend him for 50 games, 100 games, or a millennium, and it wouldn’t matter a darned bit in terms of monetary gain if Rodriguez beats Bud Selig to the punch and retires injured.
If this whole play was designed for just that reason, it will go down as the smarmiest move the smarmiest of players in Yankees history ever pulled off. Mister Me-First, whose women, PED admissions and playoff droughts have supplied that locker room with a never-ending source of distraction, will have engineered the greatest robbery since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And he won’t even have to flee to Bolivia with the dough.
No matter how the current scenario unfolds, one thing is obvious. A-Rod is never, ever again going to be the power-hitting influence the collection of slap hitters the Yankees now field so sorely needs. Thirty-seven-year-old hips tend not to respond well. Though Rodriguez will certainly be able to walk normally, he’ll never replicate the power that enabled him to hit 40 homers or more eight times in his 19-year career.
The fact that he could get paid despite never swinging a bat in anger again is also a minor factor. The Yankees could recoup up to 80 percent of those bucks through insurance — the same that will make up for Teixeira’s salary the rest of the year. So they won’t be utterly slammed as they attempt to stick to a reasonable budget over the next few years.
While Rodriguez winds his wicked web, his team’s future remains just as much a story. Joba Chamberlain got booed out of Yankee Stadium Wednesday night after allowing his fourth homer in seven outings and raising his ERA to 6.38. Andy Pettitte doesn’t seem to remember how to hold a lead anymore.
They’re not fielding particularly well.
The pop-gun lineup is here today, gone tomorrow as it produces just enough to keep Joe Girardi’s club well in the division race with Boston, though Baltimore is also there and Tampa Bay and Toronto are gaining ground. It couldn’t muster a couple of runs Thursday, however, to get Phil Hughes off the hook of a 2-0 loss to Texas despite a beautiful eight innings of five-hit, two-run ball.
The one redeeming aspect of the current situation is that Girardi only has to worry about the players he can put on the field. The Rodriguez mess is well above his pay grade.
Good thing. He’s got enough to worry about without getting sucked into the mud that surrounds A-Rod.
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