Alex Rodriguez's newly retained attorney, Joseph Tacopina, has issued fighting words regarding the club's medical treatment of its embattled third baseman. As the New York Times' Steve Eder reports, Tacopina claims that the club put Rodriguez in the lineup late last year despite knowing of tear in the labrum of his hip -- failing to advise Rodriguez of that fact and hoping to shorten his playing career. The allegations are presumably intended to form the basis for a defense against Rodriguez's historic PED suspension, which Rodriguez has appealed.
According to Eder, the Rodriguez rep further alleged that the Yankees were "working in conjunction" with Major League Baseball to put him out of the game and avoid paying the remainder of his massive contract. (MLB executive vice president Robert Manfred called this charge a "red herring," explaining that the suspension had no impact on Rodriguez's contract beyond lost pay for the suspension itself.) Claiming that confidentiality concerns prevented him from denying PED use by Rodriguez, Tacopina did insist that no suspension was warranted.
Yankees president Randy Levine responded with equal force, saying that "each and every one of these allegations is specious and completely false." Levine warned that, "if they continue, all parties will be held accountable." He said that the club was willing to disprove the alleged mistreatment by releasing Rodriguez's health records, if the three-time MVP would consent.
As CBS Sports' Jon Heyman further reports, Levine also invoked other aspects of Rodriguez's medical history, such as his alleged treatment in early 2009 by disgraced physician Anthony Galea. "The only medical issue we can't confirm is [Rodriguez's] treatment by Dr. Anthony Galea," said Levine. "We didn't authorize it. Since [Rodriguez] has put his condition into play, he should release his records with Galea."
Two other factual disputes have also arisen. First, Tacopina says that Levine told Rodriguez surgeon Bryan Kelly that "I don't ever want to see him on the field again." Levine denied that claim, offering to release transcripts of communications with the surgeon, while Kelly has declined comment. Second, the parties offered competing characterizations of emails exchanged between Rodriguez and Levine, with Tacopina calling them "very damaging" and Levine saying the correspondence would demonstrate only his support for Rodriguez.
With Rodriguez's grievance proceeding still in the preliminary stages, the issues at play could be destined to multiply and become more complicated. As I explored a few weeks ago, in the context of examining possible legal action by a team against PED users, unauthorized medical treatment involving PEDs could conceivably form an independent basis for a team to pursue relief against a player. Should Rodriguez seek to deploy medical mistreatment as a defense or even an affirmative claim of his own, he would potentially open himself to charges that his PED use -- or other undisclosed, unauthorized treatment -- constituted a violation of his contract's medical provisions.