After A-Rod's historic homer, the fun really begins

BOSTON -- Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees shared a magical moment Friday night.

It's too bad they're liable to spoil it, to turn it into something tawdry and ugly out of greed and vindictiveness.

A-Rod hit the money shot Friday night, home run No. 660 that ties him with Willie Mays for fourth place on baseball's all-time home run list.

And also, the one that is likely to trigger yet another ugly legal battle between Rodriguez and the team he is under contract to for the next three seasons.

Only a handful of people really know what the marketing agreement between A-Rod and the Yankees really says.

I've spoken to four of them -- two on the Yankees side, two on A-Rod's -- and as you can guess, their views of the agreement and its validity are diametrically opposed to one another.

The Yankees maintain that the agreement, drawn up simultaneously with the 10-year, $275 million contract extension the Yankees gave to Rodriguez after he opted out of his original 10-year, $252 million deal following the 2007 World Series, became null and void when Rodriguez was suspended by Major League Baseball for 162 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis PED scandal.

The Rodriguez side maintains a deal is a deal, that the numbers are the numbers, and there is no room for interpretation.

It sets the stage for yet another unseemly battle between billionaires and a multimillionaire over an amount that is comparative ashtray money for both.

Is it really worth the hassle? Is it worth the PR hit the Yankees -- who are paying Chris Capuano nearly as much, and Carlos Beltran 2 1/2 times as much, as the $6 million they allegedly owe A-Rod -- are sure to take if they seem to be nickel-and-diming a guy who has been one of their most dangerous hitters this season?

And is it worth it to A-Rod to jeopardize all the goodwill he has reclaimed from Yankees fans with his hot start and humble demeanor so far this season to take the club to court over that amount of money?

Can't we all just get along here?

Silly question. Of course not.

The Yankees' upper management is still miffed at Rodriguez for the course taken by him and his lawyers during the grievance hearing over that unprecedented suspension in the winter of 2013.

Suing the Yankees team physician for malpractice is not a good way to make friends with ownership. Neither is having your lawyers contend the team set you up to fail. And neither is having supporters carrying signs alleging that the team president is, in fact, Satan.

All of those things were done in the name of Alex Rodriguez, and whether he specifically ordered them or not, he is (rightly) being held responsible for them by the team.

But by the same token, it is a little sketchy for a team to not reach out to one of its players after the hearing, and suspension, were over. Same goes for avoiding meeting with him for months afterward, when even the new commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred -- who directed the Biogenesis inquiry -- had taken Rodriguez back into the game's good graces.

And it was incredibly bad form for team officials, at a meeting requested by Rodriguez so he could apologize and try to make amends, to tell him that in effect, his apology was not accepted, his transgressions not forgiven, and as for his bonus contract?

Forget about it. Or lawyer up again and come in for a fight.

While Rodriguez's teammates have accepted him back with open arms, and his manager has found it nearly impossible to keep him out of the lineup, there is no indication that the Yankees have softened their position toward him.

And while A-Rod will not speak publicly about what he plans to do next, sources close to him who I have spoken to indicate he expects the Major League Baseball Players Association -- which he also alienated, by the way -- to take up the cause. And it is not beyond the realm of possibility that A-Rod himself will choose to fight this battle, if only for the principal of it.

After all, there is plenty of hypocrisy on both sides.

Yes, we know A-Rod used illegal PEDs. He's already admitted to it once publicly, and reportedly a second time in sealed court testimony.

And we know he has been found guilty by baseball in a costly and lengthy arbitration hearing that after some careful thought Rodriguez chose not to contest any further.

But the Yankees also knew A-Rod was on PEDs in 2009, because he admitted as much in both a television interview and a media session at spring training after the story was first broken by Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts.

They didn't try to void the contract then, nor declare the milestones "unmarketable,'' as they are now.

The suspicion is, and must be, that they knew A-Rod was still a productive player back then -- in fact, his bat was the main reason they got to the 2009 World Series -- but did not think it would be now.

And to take it back further, do you think for a minute that back in 2004, when the Yankees were attempting to trade for A-Rod from Texas Rangers, not one person in the knowledgeable Yankees front office took a look at his numbers -- 47, 57 and 52 home runs in his previous three seasons and 335 overall by his 27th birthday -- and didn't suspect he might be doing something against the rules?

In fact, the case can be made that the Yankees signed Rodriguez because of steroids, not in spite of them, since they certainly were enamored of the numbers he was putting up and weren't asking too many questions about how he did it.

So here we have it, a tainted player putting up tainted numbers trying to collect on a contract that the Yankees now say is tainted, too.

Sorry, but there is no good guy here, no clean side of this argument, and no possible winner of this fight.

There's really only one acceptable course of action here: A-Rod and the Yankees should acknowledge, jointly, that the contract was a bad idea to begin with, that it was conceived in greed -- the not unfounded belief that both parties could profit handsomely off numbers both knew, or should have known, were tainted -- and was now about to explode in enmity that could derail a team and a player it now counted upon.

Then, they should agree that every cent of that $6 million should go to a variety of charities of their mutual choosing.

That way the Yankees fulfill their end of the bargain, A-Rod collects on his, and people who really need the money get to benefit from it.

That is the one and only way Alex Rodriguez' 660th home run can have any real value.