Embattled Yankee Alex Rodriguez escalated his war with team higher-ups via comments from his new New York lawyer suggesting the team purposely mistreated him medically, and Yankees president Randy Levine responded Saturday afternoon with a strong challenge for Rodriguez.
Levine offered to release all the team's medical records while simultaneously asking A-Rod to release his records of treatment with Anthony Galea, the disgraced sports doctor who treated Rodriguez and was convicted of smuggling HGH.
"The one medical issue we can't confirm is [Rodriguez's] treatment by Dr. Anthony Galea. We obviously didn't know he was being treated by Dr. Galea," Levine said by phone. "We didn't authorize it. Since [Rodriguez] has put his condition into play, he should release his records with Galea."
Baseball's version of the War of the Roses just got quite a bit thornier.
Rodriguez's flashy and famous new lawyer Joseph Tacopina charged that the Yankees played Rodriguez late last year, knowing the star had a hole in his labrum without telling Rodriguez. Tacopina suggested the Yankees' goal was to get out of the contract that still had $114 million remaining heading into this season (though Rodriguez's Biogenesis link didn't come to light until three months later with the Miami New Times report).
"They rolled him out there like an invalid and made him look like he was finished as a ballplayer," Tacopina told the New York Times, referring to Rodriguez's poor play last October.
Levine, meanwhile, offered to release all the Yankees' medical records regarding Rodriguez to show the Yankees gave A-Rod excellent medical care. Rodriguez had his hip surgically repaired midway through the winter.
"We believed he's received the highest standard of care. He's made all the choices. [But] if Alex really believes he wasn't given good treatment, there's a remedy for that. He can file a grievance,'' Levine said. "It's time to put up or shut up."
Tacopina, showing no signs of shutting up, came out blasting after he was recently hired by Rodriguez as the latest in a long string of prominent Rodriguez legal people. Rodriguez and noted Miami defense lawyer Roy Black parted ways, but A-Rod is believed to retain sports attorney David Cornwell, plus labor law firm Cohen, Weiss and Simon, plus Jay Z's legal group at Reed Smith. Tacopina's comments came a day after 60 Minutes reported that members of the A-Rod camp leaked Biogenesis documents linking Ryan Braun and teammate Francisco Cervelli to Biogenesis, the now-defunct "wellness" clinic that provided PEDs to baseball players and is at the center of MLB's PED case.
"It's a little surprising, though not really, after both Alex Rodriguez and his lawyer [Cornwell] said yesterday they weren't going to get into any of this and only wanted their day in court, they have another lawyer issue specious and reckless charges which are done for one purpose only to distract from the only issue that matters in this case -- whether or not he used performance enhancing drugs," Levine said.
Tacopina declined to say in the Times story whether Rodriguez used drugs but made the claim that he didn't deserve one game of suspension, much less the 211 he received from Major League Baseball. The other 13 players linked to Biogenesis all have agreed to penalties, 12 for 50 games and Braun for 65. Rodriguez, who has appealed his ban, is said to have received a much harsher sentence due to massive violations, as well as the belief he "obstructed" MLB's investigation.
"I will sit here and tell you this: Alex Rodriguez should not be suspended for one inning, let alone 211 games," Tacopina said in the article.
Rodriguez's new lawyer also charged the Yankees and MLB were working in cahoots to try to void Rodriguez's contract, which now has a little more than $90 million remaining on it -- though MLB executive V.P., economics and league affairs, Rob Manfred pointed out that Rodriguez would only be docked for the games of his suspension and isn't in jeopardy of having his complete contract voided.
Manfred told the Times that Rodriguez was treated "exactly the same" as the other players.
"The bottom line on this," Manfred said, "I have yet to see Alex Rodriguez or any of his representatives say that Alex Rodriguez didn't use PED's. They've adopted a strategy to make a circus atmosphere of irrelevant allegations."
Tacopina attacked MLB, saying it sought to make Rodriguez the "poster boy" for steroids. He suggested both entities want him out, and went so far as to say that Levine told Rodriguez's hip surgeon Bryan Kelly he hoped Rodriguez would never play another game. Kelly declined to say whether any such conversation ever took place.
"Obviously, that is completely false," Levine said. "That's why Dr. Kelly didn't confirm it. All the calls had many people on them. As with all calls of a medical nature, there are transcriptions of notes taken. As with the records, we would be happy to release them."
Tacopina tried to make the case that the Yankees have influence over MLB to be rid of Rodriguez. "If anybody thinks the Yankees control the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, they should learn a little bit about baseball," Levine said. "It's so absurd."
Tacopina also suggested they might release emails between Levine and Rodriguez that were allegedly negative in nature. Levine, long one of Rodriguez's backers among Yankees people invited him to do so.
"As everyone knows. I've been one of Alex's biggest supporters," Levine said in what seems like something short of a brag at this point.
Levine said there are indeed many, many emails exchanged between the two men over the years, and said he'd be happy for Rodriguez to release them all.
"He can release whatever emails he wants," Levine said, before laying out what types of emails he's sent. "I've been encouraging him to be a leader. And I've been encouraging to get better through injuries and tough times."
There is no disputing this would qualify as one of those tough times.