NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez, embroiled in a media firestorm for the past week, announced a cease-fire Wednesday by saying that his camp is “shutting down” any talk not involving baseball for the immediate future.
A-Rod declared those intentions from the top of the dugout steps as the Yankees took batting practice before last night’s game against the Blue Jays. Rodriguez was not in the lineup as Joe Girardi chose to rest him after playing both ends of Tuesday’s doubleheader, and it appears A-Rod is finally ready to give the rhetoric some time off as well.
“That’s behind us now and I’ve shut everything down,” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s the most important thing for us now — out of respect to my team, my manager and my coaches. We’re in the middle of a very important pennant race. We’re playing pretty well right now and we want to keep the focus on the field. Publicly, I want everything to be 100 percent about baseball.”
The abrupt shift in strategy comes after Rodriguez’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, was the target of Monday’s surprise attack by Matt Lauer on the set of the “Today” show. Lauer handed Tacopina a two-page letter that served as a confidentially waiver from Major League Baseball, which challenged the lawyer to sign the document on live TV.
Tacopina passed, correctly citing the need for the players union to be involved in any such waiver. But after MLB said that could be arranged, Tacopina still refused to sign the letter, calling it a “theatrical trap.” He did pledge to draft a revised letter to send back to the commissioner’s office, but that plan appears to be on hold now in the wake of Rodriguez’s public stance Wednesday.
For much of the past week, Rodriguez and his reps had been engaged in a fierce PR battle with both MLB and the Yankees. Tacopina and Yankees president Randy Levine exchanged wild accusations over the weekend. On Sunday, general manager Brian Cashman called Rodriguez a liar for disingenuous comments regarding his health during rehab and also said he had created a “litigious environment” around the Yankees.
None of that seemed to bother Rodriguez, who rallied the team Sunday night with a spectacular home run off Boston’s Ryan Dempster, who drilled him earlier in the game. When asked Wednesday if it had been difficult to concentrate on baseball lately, A-Rod preferred to look forward.
“The past is the past,” he said. “Right now, the most important thing, is our first playoff game starts tonight, and every game is important. The playoffs are what we’re thinking about right now. That’s the reason why I shut everything down.”
For now, Team Rodriguez has switched into détente mode. But as a source connected with the A-Rod camp explained, this remains subject to change depending on what else surfaces in the days ahead. Tacopina maintains it was the other side that ignited the last skirmish in Boston, where Rodriguez and his advisers were forced to fend off Friday’s “60 Minutes” report alleging A-Rod leaked other names from the Biogenesis lists, including Ryan Braun and teammate Francisco Cervelli.
Tacopina fired back by accusing the Yankees of mistreating Rodriguez’s torn hip labrum — and even hiding the MRI during last October’s playoff run. That prompted Levine to say A-Rod should “put up or shut up” regarding his medical complaints.
“Not with this new approach we have right now,” Rodriguez said. “We really want to just focus on playing good baseball — and 100 percent that all the questions be about baseball. If there’s any questions in the future that are not about baseball, the interview will end at that moment.”