Until the end of the 2017 season, Alex Rodriguez is the property of the New York Yankees. The team has invested nearly $300 million in him with the expectation that he will be among the best in baseball. In return, his bosses control his health, his training regime and most of his life.
A few weeks ago, when A-Rod Story II — the steroid scandal — broke, Brian Cashman seemed to indicate his understanding of this relationship. “We’ve invested in him as an asset,” the Yanks’ GM said at the time. “And because of that, this is an asset that is going through a crisis. So we’ll do everything we can to protect that asset and support that asset and try to salvage that asset.”
On Thursday, Ross at New Stadium Insider played off that quote and noted that the team has failed to protect one of its top assets. The news though got even more damning as the day unfolded.
Jack Curry and Tyler Kepner turned up some very alarming statements from the Yankee brass concerning the timing of A-Rod’s injury and the team’s knowledge about it.
Cashman said the Yankees discovered an irregularity in Rodriguez’s hip last May when he underwent a magnetic resonance imaging exam for a right quadriceps injury. By June or July, the hitting coach Kevin Long said he could notice subtle changes in Rodriguez’s hitting, notably in his right foot — the back one in his stance.
The foot was not pivoting fully, Long said, and as a result, Rodriguez could not completely turn his waist and clear his hips. This caused his bat to drag and prevented him from driving through the ball and generating maximum power.
“Speed-wise, to catch up to 95, 96 mile-an-hour pitches, you’ve basically got to get your hips through,” Long said. “It affects bat speed, power, balance. From a technical standpoint, it affects quite a few things. But he’s so gifted and so talented that he made due with what he had.”
Cashman goes on to defend the move not to give A-Rod an MRI last spring. Cashman claims that if you sent the entire team for MRIs, most of them would come back with problems due to wear and tear. That A-Rod felt no pain — but did adjust his approach at the plate — meant that the Yanks would not force their $300-million man into the MRI tube. “You don’t treat the M.R.I., you treat the patient,” Cashman said. “There was no pain and he was never having a problem with it. You talk with him about it, make him aware of it and off you go.”
For now, the Yankees will have A-Rod play, but medical experts all agree that he will need surgery eventually. The Yanks are risking permanent, long-term damage to his hip socket by electing the rehab path. I guess they know what they’re doing.
Those among us who do not like Cashman are right to express outrage and incredulity at this latest revelation. The Yankees showed here an unwillingness to treat potential injuries with any sort of aggression or urgency. By letting A-Rod dictate the terms of his visits to the doctors, the Yankees are risking their investment and the team’s on-field success.
With this injury and the behind-the-scenes glimpse Kepner and Curry provided, the Yankees should use this experience as one from which they must learn. Injuries do not heal themselves, and Major League Baseball players never like to sit out. Someone has to protect the investment, and Brian Cashman and the Yankee coaches dropped the ball.