Why are the Yankees Distancing Themselves From Head Team Physician Dr. Ahmad?

Alex Rodriguez’s newly-retained attorney, Joseph Tacopina, has lodged some serious accusations against the New York Yankees and MLB.  In essence, Tacopina has stated screamed that the Yankees and MLB have been conspiring against Rodriguez in order to simultaneously kick him out of baseball and allow the Yankees to avoid paying the four years remaining on Rodriguez’s gargantuan contract.

On Sunday, Brian Cashman briefly addressed these allegations.  In addition to denying all of the allegations as meritless, Cashman also forcefully defended the Yankees doctors and the medical care Rodriguez received last season:

“Our trainers and doctors will continue to provide the best medical care possible.  That is for Alex as well as anybody else regardless of what they say and what they do. They’re going to continue to do that for Alex as well as anybody else on the team. Is it an unusual circumstance? Absolutely. Are any of these people happy with these allegations that continue to get thrown? It’s odd. It’s odd and it’s false, but we still have to go through the motions.”

Earlier today, however, ESPN reported that Alex Rodriguez’s camp was preparing a medical malpractice lawsuit against Dr. Christopher Ahmad.   In response, the New York Yankees issued the following tepid statement:

“We relied upon Dr. Christopher Ahmad and the New York-Presbyterian Hospital for medical diagnosis, opinions and treatment. The Yankees neither had any complaints from Alex Rodriguez pertaining to his left hip during the 2012 regular season and the Yankees postseason, nor did the Yankees receive any diagnosis pertaining to his left hip during that same period of time. Given the various allegations that have been made by Alex Rodriguez and his counsel, if you have any medical questions they should be directed to the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Dr. Christopher Ahmad.”

Uh oh.

On Sunday, it appeared that the Yankees were united with the doctors who treated Rodriguez.  The Yankees and the treating physicians stood hand-in-hand against Tacopina’s outlandish accusations.  The party line appeared to be:  “A-Rod and his camp are desperate and are irresponsibly throwing around accusations to take the spotlight off Rodriguez’s own wrongdoing.”

By Monday night, however, the Yankees appeared to be backing off Cashman’s original statements.  The treating physicians were no longer “our” doctors.  Instead, Monday’s press release made clear that the Yankees relied upon the doctors’ expertise when it came to “diagnosis, opinions, and treatment.”  In other words, the Yankees are telling the public:  “There is nothing to Rodriguez’s allegations . . . but if there is, it was not our fault as we were relying on the skill of the medical staff.”

As I see it, there are two possible reasons for this backpedalling:  (1) the public relations staff and legal department are merely playing it safe or (2) there may be some truth to these allegations.

Clearly, the perceived backtracking may just be precautionary.  Cashman’s statements on Sunday were made on the spot after being questioned by reporters and were not specifically responding to the threat of a medical malpractice lawsuit.  The official statement released on Monday, which was obviously vetted through the team’s public relations staff and legal department, took a much more neutral tone.  This is normally the correct tactic because there is no harm in taking such a stance.

But, in light of Cashman’s quotes from the previous day, the wording of the Yankees’ official statement is curious.  It is not so much what is in the statement but what is not.  There is nothing in the statement that directly supports Dr. Ahmad.   Instead, the Yankees merely note that Rodriguez never complained about his left hip and that Dr. Ahmad never provided a diagnosis related to Rodriguez’s left hip.  This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of Dr. Ahmad.

The Yankees are in a precarious position at this point.  Up until Sunday night, the public sentiment has been squarely against Rodriguez and most viewed Tacopina’s accusations as nothing more than a litigation strategy designed to shift the focus off Rodriguez’s PED use.   However, with Ryan Dempster’s decision to throw at A-Rod four straight times, Rodriguez may be starting to garner some sympathy.   If it turns out there is some truth to Rodriguez’s allegations against Dr. Ahmad, there may be an even greater backlash, against both the Yankees and MLB.