The worst scandal in baseball history, the one that threatened the very existence of the game, was the decision by several members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox to intentionally lose the World Series. Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer has accused the New York Yankees of committing a similar act of treason.
The lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said the Yankees knew Rodriguez had a torn labrum in his hip but continued to use him in the 2012 playoffs, hoping he would suffer further physical harm and never play for them again.
To be clear, Tacopina is not implying that the Yankees played Rodriguez while he was injured in an effort to help the team win. That would be immoral, but not traitorous. Tacopina is saying that the Yankees deliberately did not field their best team by knowingly using a player who was physically unable to perform.
“They rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer,” Tacopina said.
Let us switch, at this point, from Tacopina as the source to Rodriguez. Tacopina works for Rodriguez, who promised Friday that there would be bigger stories to come. That time, for a change, Rodriguez was telling the truth.
On Saturday at Fenway Park – the field where Billy Martin once openly confronted Reggie Jackson in another nationally televised game – Rodriguez played for the Yankees while simultaneously trying to shred their integrity.
After the game, a 6-1 Yankees loss, Rodriguez mostly deflected questions by saying he had not read the article in The New York Times. But you do not hire an aggressive, outspoken lawyer without providing him talking points.
Assume, for a moment, that what Rodriguez believes is true. The Yankees, then, would have preferred to lose with a diminished Rodriguez, in the hopes of making him permanently injured and allowing them to recoup much of his remaining contract through insurance, than to try their best to win with him.
When asked if that allegation went over the line, manager Joe Girardi said, “That’s something for later on.” But Girardi disputed the notion that he would jeopardize a player’s career.
“I don’t ever want to ruin a guy’s career,” he said. “That would break my heart.”
Rodriguez insisted he had “an amazing relationship” with Girardi, but he would not characterize his thoughts on the team president, Randy Levine.
Essentially, though, Rodriguez is asserting fraud by the front office, saying that if you bought tickets to the American League Championship Series games against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium, the ones in which he went one for eight with three strikeouts, the Yankees were stealing your money. Because you would have attended the games on the assumption that the Yankees were trying to reach the World Series – when the Yankees, according to Rodriguez, had an evil plot that prioritized getting rid of him over winning a 28th championship.
“They did things and acted in a way that is downright terrifying,” Tacopina said, referring to the Yankees.
It has been said that Rodriguez is so unsure of himself, so preoccupied with his own image, that he continually acts as if he is trying to play himself in a movie. His new screenplay sounds like a mob thriller.
Consider what Rodriguez is charging: that when he finally had surgery, Levine told the surgeon, Dr. Bryan T. Kelly, “I don’t ever want to see him on the field again.”
Levine denied Tacopina’s accusations.
Rodriguez, at least, had the conviction to let Tacopina speak on the record, and not hide behind an unidentified member of his nebulous “camp.” That underscores how strongly Rodriguez believes he has been victimized, even though he has not denied using performance-enhancing drugs again.
The irresistible pull of banned drugs is the root of all this, of course. We know that Rodriguez was too weak mentally to stay away from the stuff in the early 2000s. He admitted his prior use in 2009 and asked for a second chance. Then he earned himself a 211-game suspension for his ties to a shady clinic in Florida.
Tacopina contends that Anthony Bosch, the head of the shuttered Biogenesis clinic, has no credibility. Yet 13 other players accepted suspensions for their link to Bosch, lending plenty of credence to his word.
Rodriguez received a much longer punishment than any of the others, and is playing while he appeals. Whatever his personal failings, Rodriguez, as a member of the union, retains that right.
The appeal process could take months, which is discouraging but has created a dynamic in which the Yankees’ superstar is openly warring with the organization. In a way, it is the sequel of an old drama.
Tacopina clumsily evoked the legacy of George Steinbrenner, offering a revisionist version of the scheming – but now sainted – former owner who once paid a gambler for dirt on Dave Winfield. That offence earned Steinbrenner a suspension that lasted nearly three years.
Now the player, not the owner, faces a suspension. As Rodriguez fights it, he tries to win for a franchise he accuses of acting unconscionably. His initially stated desire to focus on baseball, it turns out, was just another lie. But Rodriguez did not seem troubled when he left the Fenway clubhouse Saturday night.
“I don’t feel distracted,” he said. “I feel pretty good.”