For as much news as his initial connection to the Biogenesis Clinic made, and as much as the MSM hyped him up as a villain when the suspensions were handed down and he was the only one to appeal, the opening day of the Alex Rodriguez appeal hearing yesterday didn't generate much buzz. A-Rod himself was there with his legal team, as was former Biogenesis head Anthony Bosch, but for the most part the coverage seemed to be limited to just that and a few quick words from A-Rod and Joe Tacopina on their way out. I don't know if it was because there was the AL tiebreaker game last night or if everybody was super stoked about Saints-Dolphins on MNF. I even forget about it myself before I saw a few things come across Twitter late yesterday morning, which is surprising considering the results of this appeal are the most important part of the Yankees' offseason.
It got lost in the shuffle after he'd been back for a few games, and it completely fell off the map after the Dempster HBP incident, but don't forget about the very public and very hostile back-and-forth between A-Rod and the Yankees in the local media before he came off the DL. The organization has made it crystal clear that they no longer want to be in the A-Rod business and they no longer want him and his anchor of a contract to be a part of their business plan. They'd love nothing more than to find a way to void the remainder of the contract and set themselves up for a more long term payroll stability plan, and they'd settle for MLB's suspension being upheld to at least shed his salary for 2014. Both ownership's payroll goals and Cash's ability to improve the team by spending money this offseason depend on it.
Not only is the Yankee front office itching to know how much of that salary they'll be free from next season, they're dying to know WHEN they're going to know about it. The hearing itself should take at least a few days, and a final decision from arbitrator Fredric Horowitz could take months after that. Free agency starts 6 days after the completion of the World Series, which could be anytime in the first 2 weeks of November depending on how long that series goes. The sooner the Yankees know the decision on A-Rod, the sooner they can get started on all their offseason plans, although that's not something that Horowitz will or should consider when making his decision. If he stretches into December or beyond before making his ruling, the Yankees will be well behind the rest of MLB in the hot stove game. With as many holes as they have to fill on their roster, that's not a position they can afford to be in.
Ironically enough, Rodriguez might be the best on-field option to address the hole that would be left at third base should he be suspended. Before his legs started Jetering out on him in September, A-Rod looked rejuvenated at the plate after his offseason hip surgery. He was driving the ball to the opposite field again, he showed he still had bat speed to get around on and square up good fastballs, and he was tearing up right-handed pitching in a way we hadn't seen in years. The FA market is thin at the hot corner and internal options like Jayson Nix and David Adams haven't proven to be viable everyday options.
If the Yankees were more interested in winning than shedding salary and trying to rectify their own mistakes that contributed to the ballooning of that salary, they would want A-Rod on the field next year. Instead, they're watching and waiting and hoping for a resolution that comes quick enough to let them get started on life without A-Rod. Their best case scenario would be the full 211 games being upheld and A-Rod basically being forced into an early retirement/buyout situation on the remainder of his contract. The worst would be a shortening of the suspension to 50 games, a punishment that wouldn't cut away enough of his salary to make a big dent in the payroll and would most likely lead to a similar offseason plan to the one executed for the 2013 season. Now that we all remember the hearing has started, we can watch and wait with the Yankees and root for whatever outcome we feel is best.
(Photo courtesy of the AP)