Monday, January 13, 2014

Doing the Yankees' dirty work

Alex Rodriguez has vowed to take his
case to federal court, but the courts
are unlikely to get involved in a
labor arbitration case.
Back in the 1980s, George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, was eager to find a way out of the 10-year contract he had signed with Dave Winfield — so  eager that he paid out some $40,000 to a lowlife named Howie Spira, who claimed mob connections, to smear the outfielder.

That scheme backfired on Steinbrenner, who wound up suspended in 1990 by then-Commissioner Fay Vincent. (That suspension is widely seen as a crucial first step in the creation of the late-decade Yankee dynasty; with Steinbrenner out of the way, the baseball people were free to draft and develop cornerstone players Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte.)

Today the Steinbrenner sons are equally eager to get out of their contract with Alex Rodriguez, which runs through 2017 and calls for the third baseman to get some $86 million the rest of the way — plus $6 million in bonuses for home run milestones.

The A-Rod contract posed a major financial problem for the Yankees, who really want to break their string of escalating luxury tax penalties. They had targeted 2014 as the year to get the payroll under $189 million. Getting under that figure breaks the string and ends the escalation of the penalties. But A-Rod was to get $25 million this year.

Now he's to just get $3 million, because on Saturday an arbitrator deemed his suspension for the full season to be valid under major league rules and the labor agreement.

Rob Manfred, COO of Major League Baseball, on
Sunday's "60 Minutes" puff piece.
Major League Baseball — the commissioner's office, and specifically Rob Manfred, widely seen as the successor to Bud Selig when Selig retires — got the evidence to suspend Rodriguez by paying a lowlife named Tony Bosch.

Few can legitimately sympathize with Rodriguez, but one lesson for all should be clear: If you want to get out of your contract, get the commissioner's office to do the bribing.

My distaste for the Yankees no doubt colors my thinking, but I would be far happier with the A-Rod ruling if it didn't relieve the Yankees of serious financial pain that was the result of their own foolishness. The $25 million should still be marked against the Yankees for luxury tax purposes.

Anything less than that will leave a legitimate suspicion that MLB's dogged pursuit of Rodriguez was less about steroids and more about helping the Yankees avoid the consequences of their bad decision.

1 comment:

  1. If baseball were wanting not to look like they weren't playing favorites, they'd have also held the team's accountable by making them pay the full salary into a charity/perhaps drug awareness campaigns or something. This would get the whole leagues attention and help create that culture of responsibility, for the teams management as well. Instead, this reaks as some form of favoritism and moral grandstanding, when much if not all of this MLB was complicate in over the past several decades. Ala, Tony LaRusaa and Joe Torre getting inducted to the HOF but some of their greatest players were likely taking PEDs. Management patting itself on the back while cashing the checks on the backs of the great talent. Disgusting.