By Ross Newhan
Neither Abner Doubleday nor Alexander Cartwright Jr., are believed to have invented baseball.
I can't attest to the origin since I had other obligations in the mid-1800s.
However, I have to believe that the constantly evolving Alex Rodriguez situation is one of the most bizarre (looniest?) in the history of the Grand Old Game.
Not only is Rodriguez challenging his 211 game suspension through arbitration, but now we have the very flashy Joe Tacopina, the latest addition to A-Rod's regiment of lawyers and PR specialists, preparing a grievance against the New York Yankees for mishandling his medical treatment dating back to the 2012 post-season, withholding information, according to Tacopina, about a serious hip condition that forced Rodriguez to play hurt in the playoffs and ultimately required surgery, the new grievance also climaxing a series of accusations by Rodriguez about the way the Yankees have dealt with his physical situation.
So, as the suspended and accusatory Rodriguez bats in the middle of the Yankee lineup and joins with Alphonso Soriano in helping rejuvinate a struggling offense and keep the team's division and wild card hopes alive, we have Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman branding Rodriguez a "liar" in regards to the medical charges and club President Randy Levine saying it is time for Rodriguez to formally "put up or shut up."
"If he is going to file a grievance, that's great," Levine was quoted in the New York Times before Rodriguez himself acknowledged that the grievance process has begun
"That will finally put all the medical issues to rest," Levine said. "And if he is willing, we will be happy to release his medical records to the public."
The Yankees and MLB privately believe, of course, that the medical issue is simply designed as a distraction to the real issue, as contained in MLB's statement at the time of A-Rod's suspension, that he used numerous banned substances over multiple years. Nevertheless, whether a distraction or not, the charges and counter charges serve to create a strange dynamic when Rodriguez has a bat in his hands and Yankee management finds itself hoping the "liar" delivers.
"These are unique times," Cashman acknowledges.
How unique was demonstrated in another zany way Monday morning when Matt Lauer, host of the Today show, seemed to become a middle man for major league baseball, presenting Tacopina, during an interview on the show, with a letter from MLB offering to waive the confidentiality clause in the Joint Drug Agreement that would allow MLB and Tacopina/Rodriguez to speak freely about their respective evidence as it related to the suspension and A-Rod's alleged use of PEDs. Tacopina later rejected the offer, calling it a trap and publicity stunt, and choosing to present their case to the arbitrator rather than in a public airing. That arbitration could begin, in the form of initial briefs, in early September, according to multiple sources.
How unique was also demonstrated Sunday night at Fenway Park when Rodriguez stepped in against Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster, who immediately took dead aim, twisting A-Rod away from the plate with a series of inside pitches before nailing him in the ribs.
Dempster may have believed he was delivering a blow for all of those players who consider Rodriguez the latest poster boy for the drug cheats, but other than delighting a capacity crowd he raised questions about his own intelligence.
With the Red Sox fighting to maintain their AL East lead he 1) risked a second inning ejection that would have thrown the bullpen into unheaval, 2) created a scenario that may lead to his suspension, and 3) found a way to bring the Yankees--if there were any doubts about where A-Rod's teammates stood--racing from the dugout in A-Rod's defense, with Manager Joe Girardi so heated over umpire Brian O'Nora's failure to eject Dempster (O'Nora merely warned both benches) that he was ejected himself.
Rodriguez would later respond to the Boston pitcher by drilling a home run to dead center, the highlight of a 9-6 Yankee victory and another chapter in this weird and wearying story that finds the Yankees not knowing whether to cheer or Bronx Cheer, and MLB employing any media avenue (i.e. 60 Minutes, the Today show) to undercut Rodriguez, underscore its suspension justification and respond to a media blitz by Tacopina, a known street fighter in legal circles.