Commentary

A-Rod is left to deal with Yuri fury

Fair or not, slugger should've known cousin's presence would raise a few eyebrows

Updated: June 3, 2011, 4:03 PM ET
By Wallace Matthews | ESPNNewYork.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It would not be a back-page tabloid headline if, say, Andy Pettitte was spotted in a hotel lobby with his father.

No one would write a story if Tom Pettitte, who admitted to having procured HGH for his son, showed up in the family waiting area at Yankee Stadium.

(Of course, it would be a back-page story if Andy Pettitte showed up anywhere near Yankee Stadium, but that's another matter entirely).

The point is, on principle there isn't all that much difference between Tom Pettitte hanging around his son and Yuri Sucart hanging around Alex Rodriguez.

Except that Andy Pettitte is not Alex Rodriguez, Yuri Sucart is not A-Rod's father, and Tom Pettitte was not banned by the New York Yankees from all team-related facilities because of his role in his son's PED usage.

Is there a double standard at work here? Certainly.

Is there an element of being singled out? Undoubtedly.

Could there even be a hint of racism involved in the treatment and perception of a Hispanic ballplayer as opposed to white player from the South? Quite possibly.

And yet, these are the realities that make it head-scratchingly dumb for Alex Rodriguez to continue palling around with his notorious cousin, and terribly negligent for no one in his wide circle of advisers, including executives of the Yankees, to have pointed out that continuing this association was a really bad idea.

The likelihood is that the presence of Sucart in a hotel lobby in San Francisco this week was perfectly innocent and not the least bit newsworthy.

Certainly, family members of players are around all the time, as evidenced by the ever-present Harlan Chamberlain.

And of course, there is nothing wrong with A-Rod wanting to see his cousin socially, or even employ him in certain capacities, as I am led to understand Rodriguez does with Sucart.

But sometimes, good judgment has to prevail over familial loyalty or obligation.

And as we all know, when it comes to Alex Rodriguez, different standards are applied and different standards need to be observed.

It goes with the territory of being baseball's human lightning rod -- its highest-paid player, its most visible celebrity and its only active player with a chance of owning its most hallowed record, the all-time home record.

That player has to walk a finer line than any other, and we all know that on plenty of occasions, Alex Rodriguez has not just crossed that line, but obliterated it.

You'd just think that by now, with all that has happened to him over the past couple of years, he would know better.

But apparently, he doesn't.

If there is anything Alex Rodriguez is absolutely guilty of here, it is of using extremely questionable judgment.

If he wanted to see Cousin Yuri, he probably should have done it in the offseason, not at the team hotel.

And if he wanted to "take care'' of him, he probably should have put him on the payroll in a job that doesn't involve any personal contact between them.

Because as soon as people see Alex Rodriguez and Yuri Sucart together, the natural inclination is to think, "Here he goes again.''

Fair? Maybe not. But perfectly understandable.

The story, originally reported by the New York Daily News, that Sucart -- the cousin whom A-Rod identified as his "mule'' when the details of his steroid usage were revealed by Sports Illustrated two years ago -- was seen in the lobby of the team hotel after the Yankees-Oakland A's game on Tuesday night, doesn't really imply anything and certainly doesn't prove anything.

As a baseball insider told me Thursday night, "If Alex was going to go back on steroids, I guarantee he'd use a different mule this time.''

That, of course, is only common sense.

But there really is no sense in continuing to employ, or even being seen in the company of, a man who has been banned by the Yankees from all team-related areas or facilities.

I am told A-Rod employs Sucart to chauffeur family members to and from games, and has served the same function for A-Rod's companion, Cameron Diaz.

Nothing wrong with that in principle. But the perception is not a good one.

And for Alex Rodriguez, perception is everything.

The reality may be that A-Rod continues to employ Sucart out of sense of duty, having dragged his name through several news conferences back in 2009 and essentially ruined his reputation.

Or maybe he just likes having him around.

As a team insider said to me, "As far as we know, his official role is cousin.''

But whether it is fair or not, having Cousin Yuri around can easily be perceived as a case of a superstar thumbing his nose at the rules, or being defiant in the face of team policy, or simply not caring about how you are perceived.

And whether A-Rod thought this out fully or not, the reality is that the mere presence of Cousin Yuri in a hotel lobby resulted in a back-page story on a New York City tabloid on Thursday and guarantees a crowd of reporters at his locker before Friday night's game with the Angels, asking questions they would rather not ask and that he would rather not answer.

Certainly, he would rather answer questions about facing Jered Weaver, against whom he is 5-for-15 lifetime, with four of those hits being home runs, or even about his disturbing lack of power this season: despite raising his average to .292, he had just six extra-base hits and 10 RBIs in the entire month of May.

Instead, he will have to answer questions about Cousin Yuri. Again.

As a team insider told me, "If it was me, I wouldn't have the guy around, just to avoid all this. But Alex is a grown man who makes his own decisions. We can't tell him what to do away from the ballpark.''

Major League Baseball says it has looked into the matter and considers it resolved. And GM Brian Cashman considers it "a non-issue.''

"All of this is just nonsense,'' Cashman said. "It's a non-story and it's not on our radar. We don't feel a need to talk to Alex about it.''

But, he added, "Now, he'll have to deal with it.''

So on Friday, A-Rod will once again be on his own, surrounded by media, trying to answer questions about a matter that really never should have come up.

He shouldn't have to answer those questions, and we shouldn't have to ask them.

But the fact that he will, and we will, is no one's fault but his own.

Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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