Saturday, February 14, 2015

The A-Rod-Yanks Summit: Translating the Communique

Did you catch that statement from the New York Yankees the other day about their sit-down with Alex Rodriguez? It sounded to me less like a PR statement and more like a State Department communique about a summit between, say, Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu—guys supposedly on the same side whose relationship has become visibly, seriously strained. A phrase in the paragraph from the Bombers even echoed diplomatic parlance for “we had an argument.”

Here’s the Yankees’ official description of what transpired: “Today we held a meeting at Yankee Stadium between Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Jean Afterman, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Sharp. Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years. There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training."

Whew! More people than you can imagine find it harder to figure this out than, say, T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”

In their accounts of issues that don’t really get settled, such statements often require translation—heck, full-scale unpacking—for the uninitiated. Think of the following, then, as a form of public service on my part. (Phrases and sentences in italics come from the Yankee statement reproduced in Andrew Marchand’s report of the meeting on Everything else is my translation, free of charge.)

Today we held a meeting at Yankee Stadium…” Translation: Notice that this was our time, our place. Not at some neutral site down in Florida between our spring-training camp in Tampa and Alex’s home in Miami. We wanted him to feel the chill in the air even before he stepped into our offices. No attempt to make him comfortable here.

“…between Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Jean Afterman, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Sharp.” Translation: Hank Steinbrenner wanted to sit in. All of us who saw The Godfather didn’t think this was a good idea. You see, he’s got this Sonny Corleone thing going—all impulsive and stuff. He still feels rooked that, when A-Rod was ready to leave the team after the 2007 season, Hank practically threw money at him—that contract with all the incentives for breaking the all-time home run records—without knowing that the guy was taking steroids. So now, Hank thought it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to leave a dead horse in the vacant chair where A-Rod’s supposed to sit! Lucky that Hal is more the Michael Corleone type, saying far more can be accomplished with long silences and cold stares.

Another person who wasn’t there was Joe Girardi. You know the ol’ good-cop, bad-cop routine? Well, Joe’s the good cop in all of this. 

Just about all of us are praying that A-Rod gets injured and retires in spring training, harder than some little kids at Christmas pray for their very own pony. But the chances in both cases are not great. If that’s the case, we need somebody who knows how to motivate, use and get everything out of A-Rod in a season when so many of our veterans are trying to come back from injuries. Despite the make-nice vibe the other day, the only one left in the organization that A-Rod might trust is Joe. As far as A-Rod is concerned, Joe is the only one around here in his corner. Let him go on dreaming.

As for Jim Sharp—well, that’s a great last name for a legal eagle, huh? A damn sight better than that ambulance chaser Joe Tacopina! Matt Lauer really got him good reading that letter on the Today Show from Major League Baseball waiving the confidentiality clause in the joint drug agreement, didn’t he?

"Alex initiated the meeting…” Translation: You think we called this pow-wow? We’re lucky we can stay in the same room with him without throwing up! No, A-Rod’s camp approached us last month about this. Nothing doing, we said then. Why hurry? He was ready to sue everyone here at the drop of a hat a year and a half ago. Now, he can sweat coming back. The list of those who hate his guts is a mile long.

“…and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years.” Translation: You should have seen the bum, biting his lips and getting all misty-eyed. Maybe he didn’t see all the eye-rolling going around the room.

We’d heard it all before in 2009, when he promised up and down that he was done with steroids. But as soon as we heard he was palling around again with “Cousin Yuri,” we knew he wasn’t around for the companionship.

Then he had the nerve to sue everyone and his brother when he got caught out with the ‘roids. The papers say all those futile lawsuits were the bad advice he got from Jay Z and his crew. Me, I think it was the influence of his girlfriend these last few years, Torrie Wilson.

I’ve never understood what women at a certain level see in him. His ex, Cynthia? Lovely lady. Psych major. He had already seen at least three therapists for his issues, but maybe he collects them for security, the way he collects lawyers, publicists and financial guys. Oh, and women—which is why his marriage broke up. (Madonna. You know, the Mayor of Cougartown, USA.)

Kate Hudson? I can’t remember him smiling so much as the year he dated her, after the collapse of his marriage. I’m convinced she helped him survive that first steroid scandal until he was able to have that monster postseason. But the season he got his World Series ring—the reason he came to the Yankees in the first place? After that, it was finis for her. If you want to know the truth, I think he was really cursed from then on.

Cameron Diaz? You can do a LOT worse than rebounding with a girlfriend like that. You hear a lot of stories on people in this business, but everyone who ever met her going to see A-Rod at his building always said you couldn’t find a sweeter person. (They didn’t mind looking at her either.) Of course she didn’t last.

You wanna know what I think of Torrie Wilson? I’m not even going to mention the fact that any woman who would date A-Rod for more than a few years, as she did before their breakup, needs to have her head examined.

No, what got me about her WWE “career” was the type of stuff she did to opponents: kneeing, eye-gouging, struttin’ around. Nothing is beneath you in professional wrestling. I think some of that attitude rubbed off on A-Rod when he decided to sue everyone around here.

Oh, and how could I forget about the acting they do in those matches? Or should I say, bad acting? Like the time he staged that walkout from his hearing with the arbitrator about the suspension because Bud Selig refused to testify, even though he and Tacopina knew all along it wasn’t going to happen? Maybe A-Rod thought this was his chance to transition into a new career: acting. But it wouldn’t be an Oscar he’d get for this, but a Razzie. You know, the award for horrible acting that Sylvester Stallone’s won, like, 10 times.

If he’s going to apologize to anyone, I think his teammates would be the best place to start. They stood behind him back in ’09. So what did he do to say thanks? He and his lawyers threw one of them, Francisco Cervelli, under the bus, by leaking his name in connection with the Biogenesis scandal in an attempt to throw the scent off himself.

Even in the best of times, it’s been one distraction after another, and we’re talking not just “over the last several years,” but since he came here in ’04. A damn good thing his suspension took place during the Derek Jeter goodbye tour; the story would not have been about the guy who played the game right, but the one who, we’re more and more sure of it, always played it wrong. (By the way, The Captain always had only one objective: Win. That’s why, even when he fell out with A-Rod, he never said a nasty thing to the press about him, publicly or privately.)

There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues.” Translation:  We told him to keep dreaming about becoming the starting third-baseman again, barring an injury to Chase Headley (which would be a disaster all around). With all that rust from a full year away from the game, not to mention hip surgery, he'll be lucky to get his bat on the ball, never mind fielding "the hot corner."

We also let him have it with both barrels about his incentives contract. No way, we told him and Sharp, that we would pay another $6 million each time his career home run total passed Mays, Ruth, Aaron and Bonds. Another $30 million that we’d be on the hook for? Not going to happen!

A-Rod and Sharp just sat there and didn’t say anything. We’re under no illusions that they’re going to take this lying down. Maybe we will lose if they take us to court, but we figure we have at least an even chance. And before the case is decided, we’ll have a lot more opportunities to show what an out-and-out liar the guy is. So even if he wins, he loses.

As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training." Translation: They asked us for advice about how to deal with the media on this. Our first reaction was, hey, what are all your crisis managers there for? But as we thought about it a bit more, it occurred to us that we needed to get it over with ASAP. So now we want him to take care of it before the pitchers and catchers report to spring training. Yankee Stadium will do. Again, we'll be thrilled to have him come over on a cold day.

This is like a bad, bad marriage where the couple is only sticking together for the children, only in this case it’s worse: three years and $60 million. We can’t unload a 39-year-old guy with severe injuries, an extensive steroid history and a whole season of not having played.  We’d have to pay someone to take him off our hands. 

The only consolation in this whole thing is that other teams continue to make the same type of mistake we did with his contract in ’07. I’m not even thinking of Albert Pujols, though you can be sure that he’ll never again have with the Angels the kind of monster years he did with the Cardinals. No, look at Ryan Howard—just like A-Rod, three years and $60 million left to go along with a body that’s breaking down—or Giancarlo Stanton signing that 13-year, $325 million contract with the Marlins.

Nobody can convince me that stupidity isn’t contagious. Too bad you can't get rid of it with an antibiotic. That's why I think A-Rod comes down with it all the time!

Lucky for A-Rod that Hal and Hank's dad wasn't in charge anymore when he started pulling all these shenanigans. Ol' George called Dave Winfield "Mr. May" just for one really bad World Series, then sicced that lowlife Howie Spira on him when they got into a dispute over a foundation. Even with Jeter, for God's sake, The Boss wondered if he was spending too much time partying! What do you think he'd make of A-Rod? The Old Man would have thought that even "Mr. Spring Training" would have been too good to call him. "A-Fraud" or "Shame of the Yankees" might have been more appropriate, he'd say. And for once, nobody here would have had the slightest reason to disagree with him!

(The photo shows Alex Rodriguez at Ameriquest Field on May 22, 2004, toward the start of his usually tortured tenure with the Yankees.)

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