BOSTON — Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey isn’t set to arrive in Boston until October. But there’s already a circus underway at Fenway Park.
Alex Rodriguez is in town for his first series against the Red Sox since returning from the disabled list and being handed the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history. It figures to be an eventful weekend at the ballpark, especially with the plot surrounding the A-Rod situation thickening every day, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi is confident that his team isn’t distracted by the ongoing chaos.
“No, I don’t think so. As I said, I really believe this group is good at shutting out distractions and understands what it has to do,” Girardi said Friday. “There’s always going to be something. I think since this Biogenesis thing has come about, there’s been something every once in a while that comes down that the players are asked about and I think they’re good at moving on and going out and doing their work.”
Rodriguez is currently in the process of appealing the 211-game suspension he received for his connection to the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of major leaguers. During the appeal, Rodriguez is able to play in games, and that has some players — including Tampa’s Evan Longoria and Boston’s Jonny Gomes and John Lackey — a little disgruntled about the situation.
“Well, my comment to that is, the players and the owners negotiated the collective bargaining agreement and it included the appeal process,” Girardi said. “Now, players aren’t happy with the appeal process and that’s something that you have to negotiate. As managers, we weren’t part of it, but it’s all part of the appeal process. It’s part of what was negotiated.”
The latest report surrounding the A-Rod saga comes from CBS’ 60 minutes. It states that the slugger’s “inner circle” leaked the documents that implicated Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun in the Biogenesis scandal, leading to a 65-game suspension for the former NL MVP. Rodriguez’s camp reportedly leaked documents that implicated A-Rod’s teammate, catcher Francisco Cervelli, as well.
Rodriguez’s lawyer, David Cornwell, has since denied the allegations included in the 60 Minutes report, but it does little to silence the outside criticism. Girardi is adamant, however, that this Yankees team is immune to the noise.
“It hasn’t [been a distraction],” Girardi told reporters. “If it was, it would be something that I would have to handle and probably wouldn’t mention it to anyone in here. But it hasn’t.”
The Yankees really need to tune out the racket, as they’re clinging to life in the American League playoff race. New York enters its three-game series with Boston trailing the Red Sox by 8 1/2 games in the division and trailing the Rays and A’s by six games in the wild card race. There’s a lot of baseball left, but the Yanks seem to understand that their series with the Sox presents an opportunity.
“Yeah, I believe we have a chance to get back in it, and I think it’s a good matchup,” Girardi said before Friday’s series opener. “[Felix] Doubront has pitched extremely well for them. We think Andy [Pettitte] has pitched better as of late. He did really good in the beginning and went through some tough spells, but yeah, we believe we have a chance to get back in it. That’s why we continue to try to improve our team and do those sort of things.”
There won’t be any elephants, trapeze artists or rings of fire at Fenway Park this weekend. But there will be one man whom many consider to be a clown. And the Yankees must win in spite of his disturbances.