This was going to get ugly at some point. For months, the tension between Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees has bubbled. The Yankees feel like they got ripped off by a steroid cheat and want to rid themselves of him while recouping some of their money. A-Rod desires nothing more than to stick it to the organization he feels turned its back on him.
For it to blow up like this, though? With Brian Cashman taking a page out of George Steinbrenner's book and telling A-Rod to "shut the [expletive] up" because of what seemed like an innocent post on Twitter? Well, that escalated quickly. Cash killed A-Rod with a trident.
Here's the thing: This is exactly the sort of drama Rodriguez invited – and perhaps intended – when he opened his Twitter account three weeks ago to track the progress of his rehabilitation. Between the embarrassment of A-Rod's link to the Biogenesis case and his performance down the stretch last season, the Yankees hoped against hope his surgically repaired hip would fail, he would be compelled to retire and they would collect most of the $100 million remaining on his contract from the dozen-plus insurance policies taken out against him. The last thing he wanted was the Yankees playing him for the fool.
So A-Rod chronicled his rehab, as plenty of athletes do these days, giving a glimpse into his life via grainy Instagram shots. All of it looked harmless, even the post at 6:22 p.m. of a picture with his hip surgeon, Dr. Bryan Kelly, and the accompanying words that the doctor cleared him to play in games.
Then Cashman went nuclear, telling ESPN New York: "You know what? When the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]. Alex should just shut the [expletive] up. That's it. I'm going to call Alex now."
It is unlikely Cashman wanted to tell him the Instagram filters he chose were subpar and that bordered pics are so much better.
No, this was a public declaration of war. And for anyone who doubts it was entirely related to A-Rod and not some breach of organizational etiquette, digest these three tweets.
Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news - the green light to play games again! http://t.co/RuzfXOJjHI— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) June 25, 2013
Felt good to get my first AB's since March. 1-2 with a double and a walk, I'll take it. #Yankees in first place, I'll take that too!— Mark Teixeira (@teixeiramark25) May 20, 2013
Brace is finally off for non baseball activities. Another step closer! pic.twitter.com/ovS4XAlYjo— Curtis Granderson (@cgrand14) April 11, 2013
Is there anything demonstrably different among them? Cashman had no public issue with Teixeira's update. Granderson's picture of his wrist's progress didn't even prompt a public reaction. And yet A-Rod saying he was cleared to play in games drew an F-bomb?
Even if it was pre-emptive – the Daily News reported he'd be back July 1, citing a source close to Rodriguez – Cashman acknowledged his return "is approaching."
No matter how much the Yankees and Rodriguez have tried to paint a portrait of détente, that was never going to happen, not with this much money, not with feelings so hard, not with a stubborn organization and a player to match. If Cashman wants to come at him acknowledging just how overpaid he is and how the $14.86 million more owed this season and the $86 million over the next four years may well be sunk, Rodriguez is not the sort to take shots without reciprocation. Just as he is fighting the evidence against him in the Biogenesis case, he is going to play mouse to the Yankees' cat.
Rodriguez has two avenues. He can stop the tweeting and look like a bigger man than a superior who loses it, or he can tweet even more and turn into a supertroll, knowing every last dollar will be his – or at least all the dollars owed him minus the 100 games MLB wants to suspend him.
In this game of ego and riches, the man with certainty always will have the upper hand. And with social media as his outlet, Rodriguez inspired a blast so uncharacteristic of Cashman – of any GM, frankly – that he came away looking better. Aside from, you know, the embarrassment of his boss telling him to "shut the [expletive] up," which really isn't a good thing anywhere.
More than anything, Cashman's salvo added another unnecessary story to a Yankees season that has stayed on track in spite of a spate of injuries. A-Rod was already going to inspire swarms of attention. This only worsens it, placing an over-the-hill, overpaid, overexposed ballplayer back exactly where they don't need him: In the middle of everything.
A-Rod seems comfortable there. This was his own doing. And if there's a lesson to be learned from it, perhaps it's this: Next time, just use Vine.
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