It’s only getting started, but the inevitable, pending divorce between the New York Yankees and faded star Alex Rodriguez could end up being the most drawn-out, publicly-scrutinized, grudge-laden divorce in MLB history.
Fitting, isn’t it? Consider that the one party is nicknamed (by non-Yankees fans, anyway) the Evil Empire and the other is the highest-paid athlete in the history of the game.
The parting between the Yankees and A-Rod is only in the separation phase, but with the recent report out of Miami that has linked Rodriguez’s name to a PED supplier, you’d have to think that the metaphorical divorce hearings aren’t too far behind.
Yes, it’s not the first time that Rodriguez has been linked to PEDs. In 2009, he admitted to using it early in his career, swearing that he’s been clean since then. It’s the same route of denial that he’s taking with the still-under-investigation report so far, but that he’s even related by association should be enough for the team to never want to have anything to do with the player again.
The Yankees are in a market that can deal with a lot from their athletes. They can be pompous, self-centered and a lightning rod for controversy, but the team and its fans would forgive it if it meant winning. In fact, if A-Rod was in his prime as a 27-year old perennial MVP right now, the latest scandal might be something that the team could just scoff at and ignore.
That’s the thing, though. Alex Rodriguez is ten years older than that and he’s nowhere near the level that he played at then. Worst yet, he’s still owed $114 million over the next five years, his skills have seen a steady decline over the last few years and his body is failing him at an even higher rate.
A second hip surgery will cause A-Rod to miss at least half, if not all of the 2013 season. Though they would never say it, the Yankees would probably rather Rodriguez never took the field again. Retirement would take the albatross contract off the team’s shoulders and mean that they never have to play the most hated player in baseball again.
That, of course, is unlikely to happen, not even if Rodriguez has to limp out there as the DH on one leg. The Yankees will move to void A-Rod’s contract, but the fact that there’s no precedent for contracts voided by PED terms means they’ll likely be unsuccessful there too.
So, they’ll wait. Over the next months and years, the Yankees and Rodriguez will be the most talked about yet-to-be divorced sports couple in the game, and every time Rodriguez takes the field at Yankee Stadium, he’ll know in the back on his mind that the team does not really want him to be there. Will the fans react any differently? That much remains to be seen.
Eventually though, as separations tend to go, something will have to break.
Will it be Rodriguez’s body? Or will it be the Yankees’ patience? Will it be another GM, breaking from the the pressures of needing to win and offering to facilitate the parting?
Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com put forth the fascinating notion from an unnamed baseball exec that the relationship between A-Rod and the Yankees will get so strained that the two will eventually come to a buyout agreement of half of the remaining contract value to part ways. Such a deal would be unprecedented, but is not totally out of the realm of possibility – not when you’re talking about the Yankees and A-Rod.
If it does happen, not only will their divorce be the ugliest that the league has ever seen, but it will be the costliest, too.