Alex Rodriguez vs. the New York Yankees. Whoever wins, we lose.
Thankfully, on Friday, Rodriguez dropped the final of the three lawsuits he filed in response to his 162-game suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance enhancing drugs scandal. The last to fall was his suit against Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad and New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center over malpractice in allegedly misdiagnosing a hip injury in late 2012.
The suit against Ahmad and the hospital represented the third prong of Rodriguez's counterattack to the baseball world's attempt to cut him out of the game. In addition, Rodriguez filed lawsuits against MLB and the MLB Players Association after receiving the longest suspension for PEDs in baseball history, a suspension that went above and beyond what is prescribed in the league's Joint Drug Agreement. "While this length of a suspension may be unprecedented for an MLB player," arbitrator Fredric Horowitz wrote in his opinion, "so is the misconduct he committed."
In January, when Rodriguez filed all three lawsuits, many questioned whether we would ever see him in a major league game again. According to a Sports Illustrated report, MLB held a lifetime ban over Rodriguez's head if he didn't cooperate (as players like Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz did) with the league and accept a suspension. Yahoo! Sports reported the Players Association considered expelling Rodriguez after he filed suit against the union. And as writers like our own Will Leitch and SBNation's Rob Neyer wrote, there were a number of compelling reasons, baseball or otherwise, for the Yankees to cut Rodriguez and effectively end his career.
After Rodriguez dropped the final lawsuit on Thursday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi indicated the hatchet may be buried, or is at least getting there. "He is under contract, so you kind of expect him to be back," Girardi told ESPN New York. "Obviously, sitting out a year, as players have seen, is not the easiest to do. You have to try to stay as prepared as you can, doing whatever it takes to stay prepared." Another source told ESPNNY the team is prepared to take Rodriguez back "if he can still play."
Given the apocalyptic tone surrounding Rodriguez's career in January, the current state of affairs should be considered a victory. None of his lawsuits bore any fruit, but Rodriguez's first priority was always making sure he could continue to play baseball. Six months later, now that our attention is off the courtroom games and back on the games on the field, the visceral feelings against Rodriguez have dulled. For the Yankees in particular, the reality of the $61 million still left on Rodriguez's contract and their limited infield depth have set in.
Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson each have an OPS under .700. Yangervis Solarte has a .751 OPS, but the bottom has fallen out over the last month. Since May 24, a span covering Solarte's last 21 starts, he is hitting .184/.271/.276 with just five extra-base hits. Perhaps it's just a slump, but even if Solarte can hit well enough to stay in the lineup, his services may be best used to fill the club's gaping hole at second base instead once Rodriguez is available in 2015. Sure, there are a couple of options via free agency -- such as Chase Headley and Hanley Ramirez -- but that could be throwing good money after bad.
As compelling as cutting Rodriguez for symbolic reasons seems, the past six months have eliminated the pretense that it would be a smart baseball move for the Yankees. Rodriguez is no guarantee to produce in his return. Next year, A-Rod will be a 39-year-old infielder, who won't have done much except tend to his side businesses. There will also be questions about how effective he could possibly be coming off a major hip injury. After a steady drop in slugging percentage over the past five years, he hardly represents a stable baseball asset. But Rodriguez was still producing an OPS over .700 in even his worst seasons, and in the Yankees' current position, it would be silly not to see if he can still contribute.
Rodriguez's reputation was sufficiently destroyed by January 2014. The only thing he valued that anybody could take away from him was his ability to suit up in a major league uniform. Now that the passing of time and the distraction of a new season have calmed the furor around Rodriguez, everything indicates he'll get that chance with the Yankees come 2015.
Rodriguez "wants to focus on being the best baseball player he can be, the best Yankee he can be, and wants nothing to distrct him from those goals," Rodriguez's attorney told ESPN New York after the final suit was dropped. Translation: he's ready to shut up and lay low, and that should be something all baseball fans can get behind.