MLB tips its hand with reaction to latest Alex Rodriguez suspension comments
In any event, the battle between the Yankees and Rodriguez has already taken some surreal turns during his rehab. After he jumped the gun by announcing his clearance to return to game activity on June 25, general manager Brian Cashman told him to “shut the f**k up” during an interview with ESPN New York. More recently, after being diagnosed with his quad strain, Rodriguez found a doctor willing to say that he did not see such a strain on his MRI; not only had this Doctor Michael Gross not examined him, he had previously been fined $40,000 by the New Jersey attorney general for “failing to adequately ensure proper patient treatment involving the prescribing of hormones including steroids.”
For all of that absurdity, Rodriguez is entitled to due process. In recent weeks, leaks from MLB sources have illustrated that him having a fair say was far lower on their list of priorities than scoring political points by publicly shaming him and portraying the commissioner in a flattering light for his belated attempt to clean up the game. On Saturday, the Washington Post‘s Sally Jenkins summarized the current state of play:
The ritualistic rage at Alex Rodriguez feels less like justice than a public stoning, and it’s Exhibit A that the moral crusade against performance enhancement is as unhealthy as the thing it purports to correct. Whatever Rodriguez’s transgressions, is he really so much more culpable than any number of the people he played with or for, including baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who makes his living off the sweat of other men’s bodies and whose apparent idea of justice is to use the threat of a lifetime ban as a publicity tactic?
A-Rod is either deserving of a lifetime ban or he’s not. He may very well have done everything he is accused of, but what we have here isn’t a genuine assessment of his offenses but rather a squeeze play by Selig, an attempt to pressure A-Rod into forgoing his due process. Whatever the evidence against Rodriguez in the Biogenesis affair — and it may be significant — the commissioner is unmistakably less interested in a fitting penalty than he is in shutting up A-Rod — and at the same time bolstering his own weak reputation on PEDs.
MLB has attempted to pressure Rodriguez into agreeing to a suspension through the 2014 season in order to avoid a lifetime ban, but if the league believes it must negotiate over whether his transgressions actually meet such a standard, then it’s likely that they don’t. The vast majority of players banned for life by previous commissioners were banned for betting on baseball and thereby threatening the integrity of the sport. Two players banned for illegal drug use, pitchers Fergie Jenkins and Steve Howe, were soon reinstated via arbitration.
MLB has already suspended two players in connection with Biogenesis. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun drew a 65-game suspension – the remainder of the season at the time the ban was handed down — with MLB justifying the length as 50 games for the equivalent of a first-time offense under the Joint Drug Agreement and the other 15 games for disparaging comments about MLB’s testing program during the grievance proceedings from his 2011 positive test. Cesar Carrillo, who as a minor leaguer was not protected by the players’ union, drew a 100-game suspension, 50 for being named in the Biogenesis documents and 50 “for lying to MLB about knowing Bosch.”
Over the last few days, the league was said to be working towards suspending nine other players besides Rodriguez, all of them for 50 games, and is currently planning to announce those suspensions on Monday, which would give players time to serve the entire suspensions before the end of the regular season. Quinn and Marchand reported that there could be as many as 12 players suspended. Whatever the number, it is possible that players could appeal those suspensions, in which case they would play until Horowitz heard their appeal; that would likely push their suspensions into next season, which could harm the free agent contracts of players such as Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta but allow them to continue playing for teams fighting for playoff spots.
The league apparently held up their announcement of the suspensions while attempting to get Rodriguez to fall in line and accept a stronger punishment, thus wrapping up this saga with a single dog-and-pony show. That appears increasingly unlikely given his vow to fight any sanction. Clearly Rodriguez won’t conform to anyone’s wishes that he go quietly, and again it’s apparent that we’re far from the end of this saga.
UPDATE: On Saturday night, in the second and final game of his rehab assignment for Trenton, Rodriguez walked in all four plate appearances. His plan is to work out on Sunday at an undisclosed location and then to travel to Chicago to meet the Yankees for a three-game series against the White Sox. However, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the league plans to suspend Rodriguez on Monday, “using both the collective-bargaining agreement, which would banish Rodriguez immediately and keep him off the field before his planned return from injury that day, as well as the joint drug agreement, sources said.” However, if that happens, the union could go to an arbitrator to request a stay of the penalty, which if granted would allow Rodriguez to play.