The Yankees can’t sever Alex Rodriguez’s contract, but his role as the team’s hero in an animated film is heading for the cutting room floor.
Rodriguez, who did his own voice work while appearing in the upcoming animated film “Henry & Me,” will be removed from the film’s final version due to fears from investors that the Yankees third baseman, who is currently appealing a 211-game suspension for his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, will hurt the marketability and profitability of the picture.
Though the producers and Yankees ownership gave their full support to the film — and in Hank Steinbrenner’s case, voiced the role of his father — and can offer their opinions about whether Rodriguez should be included in the final version, the ultimate decision falls upon a group of eight or nine investors, who despite being fans of Rodriguez, believe that the controversy surrounding him will detract from the family-oriented film centered around perseverance and belief.
“We have investors that we have to answer to, just like the Yankees,” said executive producer Ray Negron, a longtime Yankees adviser, whose children’s books served as the inspiration for the film. “If ownership decides that this is a direction that we have to go, meaning our investors, we have to listen to ownership. That’s just the way it is. It works just like a team. It’s the same thing.”
In a screening shown to a small group of reporters on Wednesday morning in Midtown Manhattan, Rodriguez was still in the film, hitting a home run with the help of the main character Jack, a boy battling cancer, and later visiting the protagonist in the hospital.
Rodriguez originally was cast in the role to replace Hideki Matsui, who had joined the Los Angeles Angels in 2010, but the retired Japanese star will be brought back to replace Rodriguez.
“Sometimes when you go to a racetrack, they say, ‘Don’t change your bet,’” said Negron.
Though Rodriguez only has a few lines in the approximately one hour film, he is featured in 49 sequences. Producer Joseph Avallone said the editing process to remove Rodriguez will take four to six months and “cost a fortune.”
“I love Alex Rodriguez, but I love kids more, and at the end of the day, we don’t want to get caught up with everything that’s happening right now,” Negron said. “This is too important a message of what we’re trying to relay to kids and we don’t want to get caught up with that.
“We’ll need to raise more money, but it’s worth it if it means getting a good product out to the kids.”
Negron later said that Rodriguez knows, “we have to do what we have to do,” and “he’ll understand” but that the Yankees slugger had not been informed of any changes yet.