The New York Yankees respect tradition, but not A-Rod

The New York Yankees respect tradition, but not Alex Rodriguez. As a result, they’ve turned him into a (somewhat) sympathetic figure.

After the Angels’ reaction to Josh Hamilton’s relapse, and whatever the hell is happening in Miami, this is only the latest reminder that any reason is a good one for MLB teams to save money. The New York Bombers have decided not to honor a clause in A-Rod’s contract that would have given him a $6 million “milestone” marketing bonus after he hit the 660th home run of his career earlier this month.

Apparently, A-Rod’s dossier is forever too tainted and stained from suspensions over performance-enhancing drugs.

Yes, this despite the fact that the Yankees remain the one team in major league baseball that could, or perhaps would, market anything about its precious history and tradition. Lest we forget… but it is this time that New York decides to take a stand, against A-Rod of all people. Because, as the team’s general manager Brian Cashman essentially puts it, A-Rod is unmarketable. Yes, how could we possibly celebrate and illustrate the excellence of one of the greatest (and embattled, yes), players and batters that the sport has ever seen?

Here comes the #hottake: one of the greatest hitters, sure, but far from a true pinstripe captain, bro! A year ago, New York gave Derek Jeter carte blanche and the red carpet to turn a 162-game regular season into a queasy, over-the-top and round-the-clock celebration of every good thing he has managed for (humanity) the Yankees organization on the baseball diamond. Yes, as he’s been reminded at every turn since arriving in New York, A-Rod isn’t Jeter.

He’s not Jeter, but neither is Andy Pettitte; despite that distinction, and the former lefty’s own struggles with PEDs, the Yankees choose to honor their ex-pitcher. Curiously, or maybe not, the Yankees giving the cold shoulder to Rodriguez is a stark contrast to how they are treating Pettitte, who will find a very warm shoulder to cry on later this summer when the Yankees retire his jersey. Meanwhile, the team says that Rodriguez’s file is forever stained and, as a result, the player finds himself in a strange predicament that’s at odds with what he’s come to know from the greater public: Rodriguez is sympathetic and, dare I say, a victim.

It’s because of comments like the following. To explain the Yankees’ decision, Cashman has said this: “We have the right but not the obligation to do something, and that’s it. […] We’re going to follow the contract as we follow all contracts, so there is no dispute, from our perspective.”

Things look mighty different from A-Rod’s perspective, of course. He’ll see a team that says one thing in writing and another with its decisions. He’ll see a team deciding to not do something it could do in his case (i.e. pay him a marketing bonus) and to do what it doesn’t need to do in another (i.e. retire Pettitte’s number).

And I see an organization that is so rich that this decision can’t possibly be based simply on money, because the Yankees are also bathing in money. They easily could make the $6 million back tenfold if it only tried to market A-Rod’s achievement and excellence. I see an organization that’s greedy and that’s trying to prove a point, which is that A-Rod doesn't deserve the money because he cheated. It would be fine, if only team management would admit as much: pay the man and don’t highlight the achievement if you choose not to, it’s fine.

Instead, Cashman says things like, “Again, we’ll honor the contract and follow the contract. There’s nothing to address. He’s got a copy, too.”

The greater public does not have a copy of the contract however, and Cashman understands this. He’s thinking that the majority of people will keep wearing their Yankees hats and choose to remember A-Rod for the easy (and ridiculously rich, so who’s laughing now?) punch line that he has become. Unless we happen to be one of the few in this world who 1) will have the chance to read this contract and 2) have the mental capacity to understand what it is that what we are reading means, then we will never really know what the contract entails.

The rest of us can only guess at what it contains. Lest we forget, the Yankees franchise is the one franchise in professional sports that most bathes in the “Lest we forget”: there is so, so much tradition and history to honor and remember, and we can’t ever forget it.

But not all history is of the same kind.