In late June, New York media outlets were running stories from unnamed sources about how Alex Rodriguez had no intention of returning to baseball and about how the New York Yankees were purposely slowing his rehab so he couldn't get back on the field.
At the time, it sounded a bit devious, even by New York tabloid standards.
Now with the latest twist in the A-Rod drama — the strained quad that will prevent him from returning to the Yankees lineup on Monday as planned — the tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy lovers are probably running themselves in circles shouting, "I told you so, I told you so."
On the eve of A-Rod's long-awaited return an MRI pronounces him injured again? Even Manti T'eo might be skeptical.
If you thought A-Rod's return date would come and everything would go smoothly, then you haven't been watching the A-Rod show long enough. This delay — whether you believe the cause of it to be on the up-and-up — is just the latest odd happening in a story that's included a smackdown from his GM, a no-show at a minor-league game and a possible looming suspension.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale breaks down the back-room scenarios that are much juicier than the simple quad injury we're being told about:
[W]ill Rodriguez be gone just long enough for Major League Baseball's investigative team to deliver its findings on Biogenesis, recommending a penalty that assures Rodriguez won't play again while Bud Selig is commissioner?
Is it possible that Rodriguez's quadriceps injury — the reported severity of which came as quite a surprise to Rodriguez — is merely part of a grand plan to fulfill the Yankees' wishes he never wear their uniform again?
Could this be evidence the Yankees need to prove that Rodriguez — who hurt his quad returning from major hip surgery in January — will never be able to physically perform at the major-league level again, permitting them to collect their insurance money and A-Rod to cash in the rest of his $114 million?
Those persistent A-Rod hounds at the New York Daily News present another side of this: That A-Rod wants to prove that he's too injured to play before he's suspended by MLB, thus allowing him to still get paid. Here's what John Harper wrote in Monday's paper:
And if A-Rod saw no way of escaping such punishment, it makes sense as well to believe he’d want to protect the $100-plus million he is still owed on his contract, and do so at all costs.
Essentially that means beating MLB to the punch by proving that he can’t play any longer — that after his second hip surgery last winter, his body can’t withstand the rigors of playing baseball on a daily basis.
If he can make that case before a suspension becomes official, Daily News’ sources say that insurance policies, either that of the Yankees’ or A-Rod’s personal policy, would allow him to keep all or most of the money he would otherwise lose.
So was he really only an unforeseen quad injury away from being activated? Or was something like this going to get in the way of him rejoining the Yankees as the time on his 20-day minor league rehab ran out?
Meanwhile, Joel Sherman at the New York Post is reporting another move in this silent war between A-Rod and the Yanks: That Rodriguez is considering a second opinion on his quad, even after telling Yankees GM Brian Cashman he wouldn't. Trust issues much?
What to believe? What not to believe? Who knows for sure at this juncture. Skepticism about A-Rod's injury being legit isn't something that's being whispered either.
Monday morning on his ESPN Radio show, Colin Cowherd came right out and said he didn't believe A-Rod was hurt — not that he had any evidence to support that, or had done any reporting to substantiate the claim, but Cowherd just believed something shady was afoot.
While we could certainly debate Cowherd's merit there, his diatribe is further proof that there are a number of people who don't believe anything they hear about Alex Rodriguez anymore. Everything, they figure, is a big charade, fiction being fed to a public by either baseball's most famous team or its falling $275 million ex-star.
At this point, it seems like A-Rod could have returned to the Yankees lineup Monday night and gone 4-for-4 with four grand slams and someone would still tell you it was part of a ruse.
And that's what Alex Rodriguez has become in 2013 — a man who has transformed from an unbelievable talent to just plain unbelievable.