Peter Gammons: When Rodriguez distraction fades, Yankees can move forward

alex rodriguez

Joe Tacopina can continue to do his job and bill his hours. He and the rest of the “team” can, without remorse, trash the late Michael Weiner, or understand that Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t be able to afford his firm or his spin doctors were it not for one of Marvin Miller’s greatest accomplishments, the right to the arbitration process that in January, 1976 led to the McNally-Messersmith Decision, the establishment of free agency and the rights that Rodriguez has ridden to, when taps is played on his career, will have earned him more than $600M.

They can somehow explain how they could, on the one hand, belittle Tony Bosch, but decline to explain why ARod went to him and brought others to him. We’re in for more stories about gummies and patches and injections and guys named Oggi and Yuri, and there will be further hassling over spring training and, when 2014 is over, how the Yankees release Rodriguez and what they claim they actually owe him, also filed under billable hours.

Look back at 2013 and realize that through it all, with an aging team ravaged by injuries and sideshows, the Yankees had a run differential of -21, scored 50 fewer runs than the Tampa Bay Rays, patched a starting rotation that was 55-63 and still won 85 games and finished third in the American League East. The Wall Street Journal estimates that their ticket revenues declined by $60M. We get that. We looked at those lineups, we watched Phil Hughes start 30 games and total 145 2/3 innings.

But as 2013 wasn’t 2012 for the Red Sox or the previous generation for the Pirates, so it is now history for the New York Yankees. It’s just about over, and as we saw that Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi could maintain a better record than half the other major league teams, they can finally move on. Threshold or no threshold, the distractions can fade away into real baseball, even if they have to order Rodriguez to spend spring training at the Orville Triebwasser’s House of Taxidermy, just south of Fort Lonesome, Florida.

Yes, Robinson Cano is gone. Which reminds us that the top five Yankee home run hitters last season were Cano, Alfonso Soriano, Lyle Overbay, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. And they won 85 games.

No one yet knows if they can sign Masahiro Tanaka, or CC Sabathia’s health or what to expect from Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova, but the starting pitching can be a focal point, not a sidebar to the Cirque du Soleil that is ARod. We shall see what relievers may be added as safety nets for David Robertson, and whether Manny Banuelos or Michael Pineda develops.

Unlike last spring, when Derek Jeter had to report to spring training without being able to work out after ankle surgery, he will come in conditioned and with motivation to add to his legacy. Mark Teixeira’s wrist isn’t 100 percent, but could be by Opening Day.

Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran can be a dynamic outfield that uses The Stadium’s power spot and covers everything from right-center to the left field line. Brian McCann may hit 35 homers, and is one of those beacon personalities that will own the pre-and-postgame soundbites, as well as the respect of the pitchers.

Is this likely to be a great team? No. But it is one without expectations, and, for once, one with far, far fewer distractions. Maybe at the end of the 2014 season, they give Clayton Kershaw the Trump Towers. Maybe after 2015 they sign two or three out of Jason Heyward, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters, who could divide catching and DH duties with McCann. By then, they will have paid whatever they have to pay to be divorced from Rodriguez, and, one can be certain, they will be moving on, trying to find who can be the Jeter and the Mariano Rivera of the next generation.

Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s decision made nominal winners of Bud Selig, Rob Manfred and MLB security. What we have learned about how they were able to win, paying for information and testimony, is seedy. But what they did was necessary. Look, none of the 14 suspended players flunked drug tests. The patches and the gummies and the injections—puh-leaze—have weakened the drug-testing policy. The Biogenesis and other lab rats operate out of the sewer, and to protect baseball’s legacy of at least attempting to lessen the PED world they had to get into the sewers and deal with these guys, because it is about the chemists and the suppliers and the enablers and the guys who can make a living cheating the testers and those who run sports.

Selig and Manfred know Biogenesis isn’t the only lab out there. They’re everywhere. But to try to keep ploughing for a level playing field, they had to let players know that even if they’ve got Bosches to beat tests, MLB has watched enough CSI to be able to follow the texts and emails and paper trails to find them.

Major League Baseball will move on, to the next issue in another city. Soon the Yankees can move on.

As for Alex, even after all the billable hours are paid off, he’s going to have lots of money. But he’s not going to have an acting career. Madison Avenue won’t touch him. The Players Association is not going to allow him to partner with Dan Lozano’s MVP agency. He can live the life of clubs and good champagne, get a ghostwriter for a tell-all book and roll Collins Avenue as just another shell on South Beach.

  • michlm

    Good article and totally agree with you Peter. Tony Bosch is not credible, yet all the other players that were suspended did not choose to fight his credibility. Odd that the only person he is lying about is ARod. I think it is very sad that ARod is so desperate that he will do anything to “save” his image, yet doesn’t get that his image is long gone and he would be better off just going away for the sake of the game he says he loves. Selig nominally wins this battle, but not sure I agree with any of them going on “60 Minutes.” That just seemed wrong to me as I think MLB should be classier than that. Also, let’s not forget the battle Selig is fighting is a result of the circumstance over which he presided for quite a while before he was forced to fight it. The legacy he leaves should include the whole story and not just the ending.

    • Mark Phippard

      Why does anyone even bother to talk about Bosch’s credibility? His story matches the evidence, and everyone else that was implicated by the same evidence chose to accept their punishment. Of course the guy is a slime ball. He’s a drug dealer. Last I knew, Harvard/Yale professors were not providing these guys with their illegal drugs. Are we surprised that the main witnesses would all be criminals? I do not see why anyone even makes that argument to defend ARod. The fact that he associates with these people just makes him look worse.

      Not saying you were doing that of course :)

  • Mark Phippard

    Peter, where is the $600 million number coming from? is that including endorsements? His baseball salary will be less than $400 million. Hard to believe he made that much from endorsements, but guess it is hard to remember now that there used to be a time when he was marketable.

  • Mark Phippard

    I thought I heard Tacopina make one point that seemed like it could have legs if it could be validated. I will re-word it.

    If we assume that ARod followed the protocol exactly as Bosch described it and as it is laid out in the text messages, does it make sense scientifically that he would pass the drug tests? Is the testing really that inaccurate that it would not catch any of this? I heard Tacopina say something like that and it sounds worthy of a response. I have heard other Doctor’s comment on the whole pee stream thing and say that it is BS and would not defeat the test. In fact, the way Bosch described is how a pee test is supposed to be done (catch the middle of stream).

    Anyway, I hope MLB is looking at this protocol and looking for ways they could have caught it. If the testing cannot be better, then I think MLB needs to move to a one strike and you are out forever policy. That way, even if players are confident they can beat the tests, they might not be willing to risk making a mistake.

  • Jenffrj

    Glad that bit of nastiness is about done. Now, we can move on to the next target: David Ortiz, who seems to play better the older he gets. I believe his name was even on a list once upon a time…

  • VtBob

    Great article Peter! MLB had to do what they did, because Rodriguez went the sleaze route just to try for a unbeatable home run record. Now, he seems to be getting deeper in sleaze by the day. Tacopina is just the latest Sleazebag added to the “team”. Good riddance Alex, you were one of the best, but you sold your soul and now its time to pay up.