Everyone is talking about the bonus the Yankees seem intent on not paying Alex Rodriguez for tying and, eventually, passing Willie Mays for number four on the all-time home run list. Everyone, that is, except for A-Rod:
“I’m just happy to be playing baseball. That’s family business. That’s nowhere near where my energy is these days. My energy is playing the game tonight. Just baseball . . . “I’ve been in a good place for a while now, and it’s just fun to be playing baseball. I’ve learned my lesson. The old (A-Rod) is gone.”
The “old A-Rod” referring to litigious A-Rod. Which isn’t to say that he and/or the union won’t do something about this at some point, but it makes way more sense for him to wait until the season is over so he doesn’t have to answer questions about it and stuff all year.
As we’ve noted here many times in the past, the whole home run bonus thing is a legal matter which is hard to assess without actually having access to the marketing agreement that created the bonus. This isn’t necessarily like guaranteed player salaries or bonuses in standard contracts governed by the CBA. There may, in fact, be legal and straightforwardly defensible ways for the Yankees to withhold the bonuses, so talking about the team as “reneging” on the deal or breaching a contract is premature and could, technically speaking, be wrong.
Bigger picture, however, it’s impossible to see the Yankees’ effort to avoid paying on this as anything other than a bit of spite based on a rocky relationship with A-Rod over the past several years. To exploit a “because we can” argument as opposed to appreciating “because we should” reasoning. In this, it’s not unlike the Cubs dealings with Kris Bryant’s service time or, perhaps, the Angels’ understanding of their rights with respect to Josh Hamilton.
Put differently, what is legal and what is right is not often the same thing. And sometimes pursuing one of those ends means ignoring the other.