NEW YORK -- So many bombshells have landed around Alex Rodriguez, they long ago stopped making the New York Yankees flinch. Which is starting to feel like as much of a problem as A-Rod himself. Instead of plowing through just another day, another game, another dissection of yet another A-Rod scandal at the Stadium on Wednesday, when do the Yankees finally ask themselves why they allow it all to persist? Or what they could actually learn from -- would you believe -- the New York Knicks?
The Yankees can keep saying they're "disappointed" with Rodriguez 'til the end of time. Upper management can let the unattributed stories roll on about how the team wouldn't be heartbroken if A-Rod never comes back, especially now that ESPN has reported Rodriguez might be proven a liar again when Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch meets with baseball investigators as soon as this weekend. It even makes total sense for the Yankees to wait and see if insurance money or a possible 100-game suspension will lighten the salary they still owe their injured third baseman.
But the Yankees get no free pass when they act as if they're powerless to stop these sagas Rodriguez keeps dragging them through. Because there actually is another option, and it's the more drastic one the Knicks use all the time on their scandal-besieged or underperforming players: Buy the man out.
Pay Rodriguez to go away.
The timing isn't perfect now. But the Yanks could internally draw a line in the sand -- say the start of spring training of next year -- and finish Rodriguez's transformation from Non-Person to Not Here.
Until that finally happens, the golden handcuffs that currently bind A-Rod and the Yankees together are not something he is doing to them, as indefensible as his behavior has been.
And until the Yanks are ultimately willing to pay Rodriguez to go away, they surrender any right to utter any pieties about being on guard for the "good of the game," or even act as if it's meaningful that A-Rod was recently told he is expected to "act like a Yankee" going forward -- whatever that phrase means to Hal Steinbrenner, who surfaced Monday to say A-Rod had been talked to.
"Act like a Yankee" used to suggest the franchise was gold-plated, or somehow better than the rest. But that changed during the steroid era. The Yanks might not like to hear that, but just a partial list of Yankees who have been implicated in or confessed to PED use in recent years includes Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Roger Clemens, Mike Stanton, Bartolo Colon, Andy Pettitte, Melky Cabrera, Francisco Cervelli, Jesus Montero and Rodriguez. The other day, general manager Brian Cashman termed A-Rod's career, "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly."
The four years and $83 million the Yankees still owe Rodriguez after this season is a lot of time and money to spend. That's undeniable. It also makes sense for them to see if they could reap either the $15 million savings a 100-game suspension would bring or a huge insurance payout if he can't get healthy enough to play again.
And still …
It's not often you can say the crosstown Knicks outdo the Yankees in anything on the management side of the operation. But when it comes to dealing with embarrassing or unwanted drags on the franchise, the Knicks look like cold-eyed realists who cut bait. And the Yankees look like an alligator-armed franchise that won't reach to pick up a dinner check after gorging at the table.
During one stretch that began during the Isiah Thomas regime, the Knicks paid a total of $71.2 million in buyouts and settlements, according to various reports, to make Stephon Marbury ($18.8 million), coach Larry Brown ($18.5 million), Chauncey Billups ($14 million amnesty buyout), and Jalen Rose ($16.9 million) go away, plus another $3 million in cash to Minnesota to take Eddy Curry off their hands (and the Timberwolves promptly bought Curry out). And that total is before you fold in whatever the Knicks paid to shed Maurice Taylor ($7.5 million), Corey Brewer ($3.2 million) and Jerome James. And Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkins, Isiah and the $28.8 million buyout they reportedly gave Larry Johnson in 2001.
Taken all together, it's breathtaking. But a poison pill? No.
So why let the Yankees get away with acting as if what they owe A-Rod is too prohibitive for them to swallow. If it has been doable for the Knicks in a salary-capped, luxury-taxed league, the Yankees have the financial wherewithal to do it, too.
The organizational will is what they'd need to muster. Especially since A-Rod keeps insisting he has no plans to retire.
Yanks manager Joe Girardi spent significant time in his pregame news conference, before the Yankees' businesslike 6-4 win Wednesday, explaining how he doesn't discuss PED use with A-Rod or any of his players. The big-screen TVs in the Yankees' clubhouse were turned off before the game, which prevented any distracting news reports about PEDs or A-Rod from being beamed in before they finished their series sweep of Cleveland, too. But the TVs were turned to a sports news channel in the Indians' clubhouse, and at one point former Yankee Nick Swisher walked through the room and leaned in for a closer look at the stack of tabloid newspapers that had A-Rod's name splashed across the front and back pages in huge type. Then Swisher kept on walking without saying a word.
Later, out in the Indians' dugout, first-year Cleveland manager Terry Francona was asked during his own pregame talk what he thought about the latest Bosch and Biogenesis news. And Francona -- who won the World Series with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz in Boston, remember -- said, "I think baseball, as an industry, is paying for burying our heads in the sand years ago."
By holding on to A-Rod as long as they have, and the added lunacy of that second contract they gave him, the Yankees might end up paying more than anybody.
They might as well pay up sooner rather than later.