The Comedy Of Brian Cashman Vs. Alex Rodriguez

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Okay. First off, before any other words are spilled onto this WordPress box I’m writing in, I think we need to all agree on one thing: This Alex Rodriguez versus Brian Cashman and the Yankees organization subplot is absolutely hilarious. I say this because there are no livelihoods at stake. When you talk about the Aaron Hernandez case, or what happened to the Brazil referee, there’s nothing funny. Lives are at stake; lives are taken. That stuff is serious.

This? This is about a player fighting for his reputation and what’s left of it, perhaps fighting for a way to end his career the right way, or even to just get back on the baseball field because he loves the game. On the contrary, you could argue this has nothing to do with A-Rod’s love of the game, but merely he has entirely too much pride and is so narcissistic that he will fight through it and win this battle for his own reasons. That depends on how you feel about A-Rod, not as a baseball player, but as a person — the guy who’s found himself linked with negative press almost his entire career, the once-in-a-generation talent whom now is only remembered for how he realized that talent in a way that was detrimental to the game.

And even if you agree with that last point, it’s a bit more complicated than that. You know, like the fact that there are so many players who are or have been linked to steroids, PEDs, whatever the “cheaters” are using. A-Rod is not an outlier in a sport that’s been squeaky clean; he’s more of a new-age Barry Bonds: the lightning rod for the drug discussion in sports. Because of his profile, where he plays, his personality, all of that. Add it all up, and you can start to understand why this story has already taken on a life of its own.

But this is also about a player who may not be physically able to play the game anymore, whether it be at the same level he was once at or at all. The latest in “what is delaying A-Rod from rejoining the Yankees” is a quad injury that the Yankees diagnosed him with — a diagnosis that A-Rod disagrees with so much that he sought out a second doctor of his own who told him that he was fit to play. The Yankees disagree, and of course, the doctor that examined A-Rod’s injury was fined $40,000 by the New Jersey attorney general in February for “failing to adequately ensure proper patient treatment involving the prescribing of hormones including steroids.”

Of course, it’s not like the Yankees couldn’t use A-Rod in the lineup right now. As it stands, they are in fourth place in the AL East (55-50) and had gone homerless in 10 straight games for the first time since 1984 until Derek Jeter hit a solo shot yesterday in his first at-bat back. It would seem, from an outsider’s point of view, that it would be at least worthwhile to find out if A-Rod could help the lineup get going (and because things have to come full circle, the Yankees reacquired Alfonso Soriano, the player they originally traded to Texas to acquire A-Rod, last week to bat cleanup).

But for Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman and the organization, this isn’t about the short term. It’s about where their relationship with A-Rod goes beyond the remaining months of this season. It’s a relationship that they’ve made clear they have no intention of continuing — except that there’s a contract that runs through 2017. So it’s been hilarious watching Cashman push every button to very publicly push the team’s relationship with A-Rod to the point where it feels like it will be beyond repair.

A employer has a contract with an employee and has deemed himself fit to return to work. The employee claims that he is unfit to come back. The employer seeks a third-party opinion, which says the contrary. Seriously, parallel this with another workplace situation outside of sports and you will find the hilarity in it too.

But since it’s the Yankees, and especially because it’s A-Rod, this is all against the backdrop of a very hefty suspension that is forthcoming from Major League Baseball. If you believe the reports that have been floating around, the words “lifetime ban” have been mentioned when it comes to A-Rod’s potential suspension. The most likely scenario is that he is suspended for the remainder of this season and part of next, a “plea deal” with the league that will allow him to return. And you have to wonder, given that the Players Association seems to have softened or even changed its approach as it comes to its players being suspended for violating the league’s drug policy, whether this will allow the Yankees to push and find a way to get themselves out of their contractual obligation to their biggest headache.

If not, we might be back in this position again when A-Rod’s served his suspension — a very public back and forth between a team that’s sending a clear message to a player that it doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore, and a player that’s responding to that message and saying that he’s not going to back down, whether it be for baseball or personal reasons.

If things feel like they’re ugly between the two sides now, it’s only really going to get worse from here. And by worse, I mean funnier and way more comical. So that’s where we’re at, between the drug scandal and too many times underperforming at the most important times of the season, we’re slowly watching the final act of one of the best baseball players of this generation, a slow, unraveling comedy where everyone’s laughing except for those actually involved.

This is the baseball era we live in.

So be it. Let’s have a few laughs along the way.

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