The Yankees’ communications staff, like every team’s, hands out a packet in the press box that features various upcoming records and milestones soon to be reached by players. Here’s tonight’s:
Here in the normal universe, Rodriguez getting set to pass Willie Mays for fourth all-time on the home run list seems like it’d be a bigger milestone than, say, Didi Gregorius playing in his 200th MLB game. (Stubhub prices do not appear to be spiking for Didi’s 200th.) But in Yankeeland, the word “milestone” has a very specific and expensive connotation, and by avoiding using the word, they figure they can legally bury their heads in the sand.
When the Yankees re-signed Rodriguez in 2007, they included a separate marketing contract that included “milestone bonuses,” including payouts of $6 million for each player he passed on the home run list. But the Yankees are reportedly willing to go to arbitration, where they will argue that the contract stipulates that if they don’t call it a “milestone”—because they can’t market it—they don’t have to pay.
According to a source familiar with the agreement, signed in 2007 after Rodriguez agreed to re-up with the Yankees, it is up to the club to declare A-Rod’s accomplishments “milestones,” which they will not do.
“They say the records are tainted,” the source said, “and therefore they’re not milestones that can be marketed.”
It will be very interesting in the coming days and weeks to see if the team-owned YES Network mentions Rodriguez’s pursuit of Mays, or even his career HR total, something I’m sure Rodriguez’s camp would be happy to argue counts as marketing his milestone. It will be even more interesting to watch the Yankees and Rodriguez go to arbitration in the middle of the season.