People continue to assume A-Rod is going to simply walk away from $114 million

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More for the “Oh, won’t that nasty old A-Rod just go away, please” file. This from the Daily News. Let’s do this in call and response form:

Alex Rodriguez is unlikely to ever wear the pinstripes again, sources familiar with the Yankees’ situation with their troubled third baseman told the Daily News …

Unless someone from the Yankees says “we’re going to release A-Rod” there is no support for this whatsoever.

“I don’t know why he would want to go through the pain of rehabbing and trying to play up to the caliber of player he was, and come back to a game where nobody wants him,” said a baseball official.

I can think of 114 million reasons. Plus the fact that his entire identity is tied up in being a professional athlete and most professional athletes don’t make sober assessments about when their careers are over. They have their careers forcibly taken from them, often hanging on too long and requiring that teams release them.

Even before the latest steroid allegations surfaced, Yankee officials had already privately begun preparing for the likelihood that Rodriguez would never finish out the mega-deal he signed in 2007.

Yet publicly they all said that his rehab would be six months and that, while it could be longer, it was unlikely. And his doctor said that his hip was less damaged than anticipated. Indeed, no one said A-Rod was finished in New York until about ten minutes after the Miami New Times story broke the other day.

Meanwhile, the Rodriguez scenarios include: (1) A-Rod being forced to retire because of the injury, enabling the Yankees to collect 85% of the insurance on the contract, which would leave him with a paid-up deal that comes off the Yankee books and subsequently lessens their luxury-tax burden.

See yesterday’s commentary about the likelihood of the Yankees being able to collect on an insurance claim for A-Rod.  In any event, even if his hip ended his ability to play baseball — which no one other than columnists have suggested — he would not retire. He’d sit on the DL for five years, just like Albert Belle did, collecting his money. Also: an insurance scenario would not give the Yankees luxury tax relief.

(2) Rodriguez completes the rehab but continues to play in a diminished role, is unhappy with his level of play and decides to voluntarily retire. In that case, the Yankees would engage him in settlement talks.

Again, there is zero incentive for A-Rod to voluntarily retire. If the Yankees don’t want him, they can cut him and he can go play elsewhere while still collecting all the money he’s owed. If no other team signs him, he gets $114 million from the Yankees for sitting on the beach and doing nothing.  There is no reason in the world why he should or would engage the Yankees in “settlement talks.” Unless the writers of this column can come up with one, their suggestion is nonsense.

If Rodriguez is found to have been involved, he could face a 50-game suspension by MLB, or worse: If he was not truthful when baseball officials interviewed him several times over the past years about his involvement with steroids and human growth hormone, commissioner Bud Selig would have the power under the collectively bargained drug agreement to increase the suspension.

The commissioner’s power comes from a paragraph in the joint drug agreement that says anything not covered under the listed penalties can be covered by the discretion of the commissioner.

I have read the Joint Drug Agreement up and down, backwards and forwards, and I cannot find a clause that says this.  If I missed it, someone point it out to me.  If there is something in there to this effect, someone is going to have to tell me how A-Rod’s alleged acts — taking banned PEDs — is “not covered under the listed penalties.”  Like I said earlier today, A-Rod is a player like any other. Just because he makes a lot of money and is hated does not make him eligible for greater discipline than anyone else.

All of this is wishcasting by Yankees sources. Or, more likely, Yankees sources attempting to communicate to A-Rod through the media, telling him that he is unwelcome and hoping he decides to do the highly irrational thing of walking away from $114 million.

Unless and until someone from the Yankees, anonymously or otherwise, suggests that they are going to simply release A-Rod outright, there is every reason to think that he will play for them again.  He will do his rehab and get himself in a position to play if he is able, if for no other reason, than to force the Yankees to play him or release him.  In no event does it make any sense whatsoever for him to retire or to enter into negotiations with the Yankees for a buyout.

We get it, Yankees. You don’t want to pay A-Rod the silly contract you gave him.  But no matter how much you beef about it now, you’re gonna end up paying the guy.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.