No one has a better sense of the madness surrounding Alex Rodriguez than WFAN’s Mike Francesa.
Day in and day out, he has to monitor the drama from the constantly churning news cycle and a fan base equal parts perplexed and impassioned. The legendary talk show host has to internalize all this and come up with a cogent, coherent stance on the matter.
Considering the man at the center of this controversy, the issue also never seems to die.
“Listen, with A-Rod it’s been bizarre since the day he got here,” Francesa says when he stops by MoJo to chat. “His arrival was bizarre. His stay his been bizarre. So I guess his final years—or whatever this is—should be bizarre.”
Francesa is giving Moore and Jones his take on a confluence of A-Rod stories. His involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, his rehab from a torn labrum, and the Yanks’ disgust with his bloated contract are all coming to a head at the same time.
The conspiracy theory is that the Yankees organization doesn’t want the 38-year-old third baseman back in pinstripes, hoping to keep him off the field so they can get away with paying off as little of his salary as possible.
It seems entirely counterintuitive that the Bronx Bombers would choose their wallets over a pennant, but Francesa sees the evidence pointing towards the unexpected.
“Right now, the Yankees haven’t had a right-handed home run in a month. This is not the typical Yankee team. It’s not like Youkilis has 30 home runs at third base; they have guys at third base that shouldn’t be there. They need help dramatically, and instead of saying ‘Oh good, we get a piece of the puzzle back,’ they are doing anything but,” he points out.
“They’re throwing every roadblock they can throw in front of his return—which, to me, speaks volumes about how much they don’t want him back and how much they want to fight him for the remaining $100 million.”
Even though the Yankees aren’t spending like they were when A-Rod first came to New York, they still have the deepest pockets in baseball. That said, salvaging a cut of that contract in the high eight figures is proving to be more desirable than spending on a fringe wild card team.
“If A-Rod appeals, my understanding—having talked to both Michael Weiner and Tony Clark last week—they feel any appeal will be heard next year,” Francesa explains of a potential Biogenesis endgame. “So that would mean he’d play all year this year anyway. But once he steps on the field, there’s no insurance money coming back to the Yankees, and they can’t in any way fight him—they can’t fight to recoup all this money.”
That puts the Yanks in an uncomfortable position: America’s winningest sports team fighting for dollars at the expense of victories. It’s an underlying reputation that has crept into national consciousness in recent years, and it’s one by which ownership will not abide.
“One thing the Yankees don’t want, and they’re incredibly sensitive to, is they’re no longer the George Steinbrenner Yankees where winning comes above anything, including money. Now there’s a lot of people who feel the new Yankees, it’s more about money, it’s more about, it’s about the Pinstripe Bowl, soccer, a million things—it’s not as much about winning. They don’t like that. That’s something they fight,” Francesa says.
“So they’re walking a tightrope here, and this has become a real hot potato for them how they’re going to deal with this A-Rod thing.”