- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
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"There have no doubt been times when we have been disappointed in him and we have conveyed that to him," said the owner of the New York Yankees about the highest-paid player on his highly paid team.
And if this had been George M. Steinbrenner III speaking on Monday about Alex Rodriguez, there could be no doubt about the meaning of those words.
But this was Hal Z. Steinbrenner doing the talking, and while he might be the boss, he is most definitely not The Boss.
If it had been the old man, those words would have carried both warning and threat: Shape up or else.
But there is no "or else" here for Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees are stuck with him, and he with them, until the end of the 2017 season, or until the highly unlikely event that someone else takes him off their hands.
So when Steinbrenner says he has been "disappointed" in A-Rod and when Brian Cashman says, as he did on Sunday, that Rodriguez "probably can't live up" to the 10-year, $275 million contract the Yankees handed him, without competition, after the 2007 season, neither is sending any message, veiled or otherwise.
They are merely speaking the truth.
The idea that neither Rodriguez nor anyone else could possibly live up to a contract without precedent is hardly new; A-Rod admitted as much back in 2009, when he was forced to cop to having used steroids. In fact, he used the pressure of that albatross of a contract as his excuse for juice, so to speak, and that was when his deal was worth a mere $252 million.
So if the young, healthy, in-his-prime A-Rod harbored his own doubts about being worth his paycheck back then, how could the GM of the Yankees feel any differently about the 38-year-old-with-two-surgically-repaired-hips A-Rod he must carry on his roster halfway through the term of the next president?
And is there anyone out there who could find a reason to dispute Hal Steinbrenner's contention that on balance, Rodriguez has been a major disappointment to the Yankees?
True, his hitting in the 2009 ALDS and ALCS was a major factor in the Yankees' reaching the World Series that year.
But on the other side of the ledger, we have the steroids "admission," forced out of him only after it had been revealed through the investigative work of Selena Roberts, his unauthorized biographer.
We have the first hip surgery, and the parade of lesser, nagging injuries, and the diminishing production that came with them.
We had the poker investigation, the reappearance of cousin Yuri Sucart after both the team and MLB requested they end their association, the Dr. Anthony Galea scandal and now, the Biogenesis investigation.
And we had the horrendous 2010, 2011 and 2012 postseasons, the last so bad that even Joe Girardi, the most tolerant of managers, was moved to regularly pinch-hit for A-Rod and to bench him for three potential elimination games.
And let's not forget why Hal's big brother, Hank Steinbrenner -- along with team president Randy Levine and with the blessing of Hal -- decided to re-sign A-Rod in the first place after Cashman had unequivocally stated that if Rodriguez opted out of his deal, his Yankee career was finished.
Because they saw a bonanza in his expected chase of the all-time home run record in a Yankee uniform. That bonanza is now officially a bust, with A-Rod's PED admission tainting an unknowable number of home runs already hit and his deteriorating body virtually ensuring that the record is safe from him.
Of course, Alex Rodriguez is a disappointment to the Yankees, when you measure what they gave to him in comparison to what he has given back.
In fact, the truly interesting question here is not whether Rodriguez is a disappointment to the Yankees and their fans, but whether he is a disappointment to himself. That is the question to which I would love to hear an honest answer, although knowing A-Rod for 10 years now, I doubt I ever will.
But I bet that answer would be a doozy, true back-page news. And I'm not so sure the answer would be what many fans think it would be. But in truth, if Hal Steinbrenner and the Yankees want to be disappointed with anyone, it should be with themselves. They are the ones who chose to give Rodriguez a contract no one could hope to live up to.
They are the ones who are now stuck with a third baseman who will be a drag on their payroll, their roster and their lineup for the next five years. They are the ones who are praying that some other team, some other sucker owner, will see fit to take Rodriguez off their hands in the misguided hope that he will put fannies in the seats and runs on the scoreboard.
But deep down, the Yankees know that they are the last stop on the Alex Rodriguez express. That is while the words of Hal Steinbrenner on Monday might have vaguely echoed those of his late father, they carried none of the sting.
The old man would have been furious, frustrated and determined to make someone pay for this mistake, even if it was his own. The son just sounded resigned to a hard truth, for which the Yankees have no one to blame but themselves.
In admission of disappointment with A-Rod, Bombers face truth about choice.