Inside Baseball: What you want to know about A-Rod vs. Yankees

One of the more fascinating aspects of a potential Alex Rodriguez courtroom showdown over a possible $30 million in milestone bonus money is that most, if not all, of the key folks involved already have ample reason not to love A-Rod.

And that includes folks on both sides of the possible case.

A-Rod -- who stands at 659 career home runs, only one homer away from tying Willie Mays and possibly qualifying for the first of five $6 million milestone bonuses -- once threatened to sue the union and he parted ways with longtime agent Scott Boras six years ago. And those are the very folks who represent important would-be advocates (though Boras appears to be taking a neutral stance for now).

A-Rod also once threatened to sue the Yankees and he fought with MLB over his PED suspension, the 212-game ban that was mildly reduced to 162 games by an arbitrator, which still represented an MLB record and a big win for the executives at 245 Park Ave. Yankees president Randy Levine and chief MLB lawyer Dan Halem are lining up on other side, and both of them are eligible and willing to testify.

So A-Rod may already be behind by two crucial witnesses, before he even starts.

The two main men who represented Rodriguez in carving out the original $30 million side agreement were Michael Weiner, the brilliant, beloved union chief who unfortunately suffered an untimely death less than two years ago, and Boras, let go by Rodriguez in 2009 after the pair that had been together since A-Rod was a teenager and forged two record contracts -- $252 million and $275 million -- split over what were said to be "philosophical differences." In any case, they are no longer close.

The unprecedented $30 million side agreement that was expected to pay A-Rod $6 million for each of five historical milestones was Boras' handiwork, and he stands to gain financially with an A-Rod win (he gets 5 percent of the take from the deal). Yet, the super agent isn't exactly rushing to help the Rodriguez cause. Boras has for the moment stayed neutral. Word is he has yet to agree to testify for the A-Rod side, though if the union requests or requires that he does, it's possible he could feel compelled to take the stand as what would seem to be a very reluctant witness.

Naturally, this whole thing could get messy, and even ugly, as things involving A-Rod tend to become. There is still some hope a compromise can be reached. A few involved mentioned that they don't believe it ever gets to a hearing -- and one person humorously suggests putting the grievance on pay-per-view to raise the $30 million. He was kidding, of course, but that doesn't sound like a terrible idea.

Whatever, it would sure be must-see TV. A-Rod may or may not be marketable. But there's no question Rodriguez stirs interest.

It is also worth mentioning amid everything that each bonus could cost the Yankees $9 million due to their 50 percent luxury tax rate, as David Waldstein of the New York Times recently noted.

While it is interesting to note that just about all the main players have had run-ins, disagreements or some sort of problem with Rodriguez, it may not matter, as this is not a popularity contest. The arbitrator is sworn to decide based on the wording in the side agreement and the rule of law.

Alex Rodriguez
A-Rod could be both friend and foe to the Yankees this year. (USATSI)

Here is a rundown of some of the issues, the arguments and the possible fallout ...

1. The side-deal document, which is billed as a marketing agreement, says right off the bat that the Yankees have the "right to designate" the achievements as historical milestones, according to people familiar with the document, and furthermore says that while they have that right, there is also "not the obligation" for the Yankees to do so. That's pretty strong wording. So this is a key clause that makes Yankees people so confident. One person connected to the club says these phrasings make the case "a layup," or even a "slam dunk." But if it were really such a slam dunk, union people say they wouldn't contest the case, and they plan to do so. Conversely, those folks say there are plenty of different phrases, and wordings, within the document, that make it something quite different than a "slam dunk" for the Yankees.

2. The document also says that the Yankees are allowed to make the designation so long as they are acting in "good faith." Yankees people will suggest that a bad-faith refusal to pay would occur if Rodriguez had been clean throughout, and the club simply decided it didn't want to pay. If anyone showed bad faith, they may say, it is A-Rod who was presumed to be clean in 2007, back when the contract was signed, and turned out to be anything but.

3. A-Rod's side may point out that Rodriguez's name is clearly tied in the document to Mays' name, and it can't be rightly claimed that it isn't a historic milestone. While the Yankees may have trouble denying it's historic, they are expected to counter that it's not marketable.

4 . The Yankees may say that there's no way to market A-Rod in such a way to make money thanks to his diminished image. They may point out that companies aren't exactly lining up to employ him commercially ("not one company is paying him any money," a Yankees-connected person said), that there are other Yankees whose jerseys sell faster now (Dellin Betances and CC Sabathia come to mind) and that the team's ratings and attendance are flat. Team A-Rod could point out that he is still popular (he received a standing ovation on Opening Day and has generally received strong fan support) and the flat attendance and ratings in the year after Derek Jeter retired are actually proof of A-Rod's popularity. They may also point out that there is more buzz, more back pages and more interest surrounding A-Rod than most of the other Yankees combined.

5. The Yankees may claim Rodriguez has hurt the team with his PED past. But A-Rod's side can say he has been punished for that already.

6. The Yankees could argue that he has been a headache bordering on a nightmare, and that he has already made a lot of money, a lot more than he deserved under false pretenses. (Remember, the contract was signed in 2007, when A-Rod was perecived as the one who could become the clean alltime home run king.) But A-Rod's side says it's immaterial whether anyone likes Rodriguez, or how much loot he has already been paid. "Whether Alex has made a lot of money or ticked people off doesn't matter," one person said. "Strip any history or histrionics. It comes down to a contract dispute."

7. A-Rod's side may point out that he's aiding the Yankees, who are in first place, as a tainted player, and that the Yankees can't have it both ways; they can't claim a rightful hold on first place with him as their DH while saying his taint eliminates him from consideration for added compensation. The Yankees are benefiting from his home runs and RBI now, so why shouldn't he? "That's what he gets the $21 million [salary] for," one Yankees connected person said. "The question is: Is he a legitimate home run king?"

8. One possible point in A-Rod's favor may regard the intent of the document -- if it can be proven. The Yankees' claim is that it's a straight marketing deal, and that it's clearly marked that way. But A-Rod's side may try to suggest the history of the negotiation suggests quite a different intention.

As with many things related to A-Rod, it was a soap operatic negotiation. Boras was looking forward to Rodriguez's free agency after he and A-Rod opted out in October 2007, with both Los Angeles teams thought to be among those interested. However, Rodriguez, concerned he wouldn't be able to go back to the Yankees after he upset them by opting out, went straight to Yankees higher-ups and did the deal for $275 million over 10 years when Boras had been seeking $300 million, or more.

Originally, A-Rod's people say the Yankees and A-Rod discussed a side deal with straight incentives based on home runs, only to be told they couldn't do that because MLB doesn't allow such deals. So A-Rod's side may further suggest that this marketing agreement was merely a way to compensate A-Rod through another means.

The Yankees may say that that suggests an admission of a circumvention of the rules, which could be a tough thing to argue. "Good luck with an arbitrator saying the union and commissioner's office made an illegal agreement," one Yankees-connected person said. Yankees people will say this is clearly a marketing deal, just like it says right there on the paper.

9. A-Rod's side may even claim that at the time MLB loved the A-Rod deal he cut for himself since it gave him only a $27.5 million yearly salary, which was only a 10-percent raise over his previous record salary following an MVP season with 50-plus homers. The guaranteed salary A-Rod negotiated with Levine and the Steinbrenner brothers was considerably less than Boras sought -- Boras was talking about $230 million over eight years before the opt out, and $300 million-plus over 10 after it. And as it turned out A-Rod's new salary guarantee did help keep salaries down; it effectively capped pays at around $28 million for years -- that's what Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander got.

The theory goes that MLB folks didn't mind the side deal since the lower guarantee was the key and wouldn't blow open the market.

Meanwhile, the side deal was seen by Team A-Rod as a way to make up for the small raise. Now there may be no makeup pay at all. While it's hard to see Rodriguez as anything close to underpaid now, it may matter only how it was viewed at the time, back when he was seen as the best player in the game and the likely future clean home run king.

My decidedly non-legal hope: While it's possible this isn't quite the layup the Yankees perceive, A-Rod doesn't deserve the extra monies. Rodriguez and the Yankees should agree to give the $6 million to charities chosen by the two parties, plus Mays.

  
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The pace of play initiative has good results so far, with the average time of game down eight minutes. The average game is now under 3 hours, which is pretty darned good considering it includes Red Sox games. The average is precisely 2:54, down seven minutes from 3:01 at this time last year (3:02 for the whole '14 season). Not surprisingly, the Red Sox lag, at 3:10. And it's not quite only because Clay seems to take a day … Best wishes to Gibby, a true gamer.
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