Hal Steinbrenner ignored the pink elephant in the room when asked questions about Alex Rodriguez's looming 211-game suspension and legal woes with Major League Baseball. But the New York Yankees owner said he made it clear to his embattled third baseman about the team's expectations when he donned the pinstripes once again.
“Look, as I told him when I talked to him in Tampa, we need him. We do. That’s just obvious,” Steinbrenner told the N.Y. Daily News before Tuesday’ game against the Angels at Yankee Stadium. “We’ve still got our injuries and my hope is that he comes back and continues to improve and stay healthy. He has to perform, and he has to act professionally.”
When we last heard from Steinbrenner discussing the A-Rod situation back in June, he acknowledged "there have no doubt been times that we’ve been disappointed" in A-Rod since he signed his $275 million contract in 2007, adding that the organization wanted Rodriguez “to act like a Yankee” if and when he returned to the team.
The three-time AL MVP played in his seventh game Tuesday following offseason hip surgery and since MLB slapped him with a ban last week that was intended to cover the remainder of this season and all of 2014 for the 14-time All-Star's involvement in the Biogenesis/PED scandal. Because he was suspended under the joint drug agreement in the CBA, Rodriguez is eligible to play until his appeal his heard.
“I’m not going to get into that, at all. We’re just waiting to hear the way everybody else is,” Steinbrenner said.
When asked if he’s disappointed that A-Rod and other past and present Yankees — including Francisco Cervelli — who accepted a 50-game ban — have been linked to PEDs, Steinbrenner added, "Like I said, I don’t have any comment on it."
As for Yankees' poor showing so far this season — they were 61-57 and 6.5 games out in the race for the second wild card berth in the American League, but have won 4 of the last 5 on the current homestand — Steinbrenner pointed to the unusually high rate of injuries his high-priced team has endured all year.
"It’s bad policy to lean on excuses, but it’s also bad policy to ignore the facts. We’ve had at least 15 different guys on the DL, several of them multiple times. It’s mostly been on offense. When you’re playing with those kinds of injuries it’s tough to play against teams that are fairly healthy. That’s just a fact,” Steinbrenner said. “But I will say the (recent 2-6) road trip was very disappointing to me."
It sounds like there's a pinstriped elephant in the room now.