NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lies, cover-ups, and cheating seemed destined to lead to a messy divorce between Alex Rodriguez and the New York Yankees, but the warring parties are heading into the 2015 season hoping for peaceful coexistence.
Rodriguez, still owed $61 million from a record 10-year $270 million renewal with the Yankees, sued the Yankees, team doctors, Major League Baseball and the Players Association in 2013 before accepting a one-year doping ban.
After missing the playoffs the last two years, the Yankees desperately need some hitting from A-Rod, who has been a model citizen during spring training, batting over .300 with three homers and no complaints.
The Yanks had felt betrayed by Rodriguez after lavishing riches upon him as the man on track to become baseball’s clean Home Run King only to learn later of doping escapades by the slugger, dubbed by the tabloids as “A-Fraud.”
Well known divorce lawyer Raoul Felder said you often see battling partners carry on together for their mutual benefit.
“Sometimes the president and his wife have a business arrangement, as Clinton has,” Felder told Reuters in a telephone interview. “It’s not a marriage, it’s a political marriage, so to speak. Sure, it happens a lot of times.”
Turning 40 in July and playing on surgically repaired hips, the bar is set relatively low for the third baseman, who has hit 654 career home runs to stand fifth on the all-time list 108 behind Barry Bonds and has three years left on his deal.
Rodriguez, thanks to baseball’s guaranteed contracts, will get his money regardless and the Yankees hope they will get some useful on-field contribution from him since no one would ever assume such a costly contract in trade.
Both sides seem optimistic as spring training in Florida drew to a close.
“I think he’s certainly taken a run at the full-time DH situation, for me, the way he’s looked so far down here,” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.
Rodriguez, who has even worked out at first base to serve as an emergency back-up, said: “I am extremely grateful to play baseball again.”
Fans have given him a mixed welcome back -- he has heard boos mixed in with encouragement at his home games and a more negative reception on the road.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, beginning his first season as successor to Bud Selig, said he held no grudge against Rodriguez.
“Alex served a very long suspension,” said Manfred. “Once he served that time, baseball ought to welcome him back. ... He’s played well. Good for him.”
Manfred also said A-Rod would be watched closely.
“He’ll be tested exactly like every other player who has violated the program,” said Manfred. “The program requires more frequent testing for players who are coming back after a suspension.”
Buck Showalter, his former manager at the Texas Rangers and now manager of New York’s AL East rivals the Baltimore Orioles, said he expected Rodriguez to deliver.
”If I was a betting man, I’d bet on him. He’s always performed well on the type of stage he’s going to be on,” he told the New York Times.
Rodriguez, who forfeited more than $22 million during his suspension, sounded the part of the good soldier.
“Anytime Joe (manager Girardi) calls my number, I’m just going to be ready,” Rodriguez said. “Whatever the team wants me to do, I’ll do.”
Editing by Frank Pingue