PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. — Hal Steinbrenner says Alex Rodriguez is “a great player” and “obviously an asset,” but the New York Yankees’ managing general partner wouldn’t discuss the third baseman’s possible return to the team following a season-long suspension.
Speaking to reporters at baseball owners meetings Wednesday, Steinbrenner said he isn’t thinking about 2015.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games in August, and arbitrator Fredric Horowitz cut the penalty last weekend to the 2014 season and postseason. The arbitrator found “clear and convincing evidence” that the three-time American League MVP used three banned substances and twice tried to obstruct Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic.
Rodriguez responded by suing MLB and the players association in an effort to overturn the decision.
Asked if he would welcome Rodriguez back, Steinbrenner said, “He’s a great player.”
“I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now,” Steinbrenner said. “My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”
Yankees captain Derek Jeter said he is saddened by the situation.
“The whole situation is bad,” Jeter said at his Turn 2 Foundation golf classic in Tampa, Fla. “The whole thing has been kind of messy.”
Jeter has been in communication with Rodriguez but declined to say what was discussed.
“I’m sure it’s a rough situation,” Jeter said.
Hall of Famer Goose Gossage attended Jeter’s event and called the Rodriguez matter unfortunate for the game and everyone involved.
“I wish A-Rod would just leave it alone and go on,” Gossage said. “Then see about coming back. Who knows what the future holds for A-Rod and the Yankees? I think A-Rod, probably, got what he deserved. I hate to see it happen to him, but I think the punishment fits the crime.”
Rodriguez’s relationship with the Yankees became strained last summer when he wanted to come off the disabled list following hip surgery before the team said he was ready. Rodriguez returned Aug. 5, the day Selig announced his suspension.
In October, Rodriguez sued the Yankees’ team physician and a New York hospital, accusing them of mishandling his medical care during the 2012 AL playoffs.
Rodriguez’s salary this year was cut from $25 million to $2,868,852 because of the suspension. Horowitz decided baseball’s drug agreement requires he lose 162 days of pay over the 183-day season.
New York was required to make a $3 million payment to Rodriguez on Wednesday, the last installment of the $10 million signing bonus that is part of the contract Rodriguez agreed to before the 2008 season. The Yankees owe A-Rod $21 million in 2015 and $20 million in each of the deal’s final two seasons.
“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking,” Steinbrenner said. “This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal.”