Years of mistrust color MLB’s impending suspension of Alex Rodriguez
Major League Baseball is prepared to announce Monday that New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be banned for the remainder of this season and all of next season. The decision comes as a result of multiple violations of both the Joint Drug Agreement and Collective Bargaining Agreement, according to sources familiar with baseball’s investigation into the Biogenesis scandal. The planned suspension, covering 214 games, could effectively end Rodriguez’s career.
MLB moved to begin closure on Rodriguez’s status Saturday after weeks of unproductive talks with the former MVP through a series of changing lawyers and representatives for Rodriguez. MLB first spoke to Rodriguez on July 12 about the evidence it held against him. Officials spent two hours that day asking Rodriguez questions about his use of performance-enhancing drugs, his connection to Biogenesis, including texts between him and clinic director Anthony Bosch, and possible obstruction of baseball’s investigation. Rodriguez refused to answer all questions, ostensibly on Fifth Amendment grounds. Subsequent talks between Rodriguez’s representatives and MLB, made primarily through the union, went nowhere.
On Saturday, Rodriguez asked Michael Weiner, executive director of the players association, to arrange a meeting with MLB officials that would include Rodriguez’s representatives, union officials, MLB officials and executives from the Yankees. Rodriguez reached out to the Yankees with an e-mail about his proposed meeting, though discipline in such cases as defined by the CBA is not a club matter and can only involve the commissioner’s office.
The request for a roomful of lawyers proved to be the last straw. Baseball officials, according to a source familiar with the talks about Rodriguez between the union and MLB, decided to that an end to the long, unproductive road had been reached. Baseball was already eager to resolve the cases of players facing 50-game suspensions by Monday so that such suspensions would end before the start of postseason. Rodriguez, it was decided, would be included in that self-imposed deadline.
Up to 12 suspensions are expected to be announced Monday, including those involving Nelson Cruz of Texas, Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers and Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees. The suspensions will include the name of at least one player whose connection to Biogenesis has not been previously reported, according to sources familiar with the case, though that player was described as not being a high profile individual.
Though Rodriguez hinted Friday night about a conspiracy by the Yankees and MLB to keep him off the field, a source familiar with baseball’s thinking said those comments did not factor heavily in the decision Saturday to press ahead with the planned suspension, calling such reports “overstated.”
More important to the decision was that fact that baseball and Rodriguez were never on the same page about how he should be treated in the Biogenesis case, a dispute that could be at the center of an appeal. Rodriguez’s camp argued that Rodriguez should be treated the same as players facing 50-game suspensions — that is, as a player with no previous recorded violations of the Joint Drug Agreement. Rodriguez, as reported by SI in 2009, did fail a 2003 test for steroids, but testing in that season was undertaken for survey purposes only with no penalties attached. Rodriguez subsequently admitted that he used PEDs from 2001 through 2003 — again, when no testing with penalties existed — though the evidence obtained by MLB in the Biogenesis case has been reported to detail the use of PEDs by Rodriguez at least in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Documents said to be the logbooks of Bosch and published by the Miami New Times in January detailed an extensive doping regimen associated with Rodriguez’s name, including at least 19 different drugs to be taken morning, noon and night through multiple delivery systems, including pills, injections and lozenges.
MLB had contended that Rodriguez’s actions were so pervasive and extended over so many years that, like Ryan Braun, the Brewers outfielder who accepted a 65-game suspension last month, he should be considered a multiple offender. MLB suspended Braun not just as a first-time violator of the JDA, but also as a violator of the CBA in regards to his actions related to his 2011 failed drug test, when Braun held a dramatic news conference to proclaim his innocence and suggest a conspiracy by the urine specimen collector.
Rodriguez still has time to offer baseball terms of a settlement beyond a 50-game suspension and less than the planned 214-game suspension, though he publically has said he will “fight” any discipline.
If baseball goes ahead with its plan to also suspend Rodriguez for violating not only the JDA but also the CBA, Rodriguez would be ineligible to play while his appeal is heard and decided, a process expected to take about 45 days. A 214-game suspension would sideline Rodriguez until the 2015 season, a season when he turns 40 years old. It may be unlikely the Yankees would want Rodriguez back at that age after two years out of baseball and with such disgrace attached to him — even if Rodriguez would be due $61 million for the 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. Those years are the last three seasons of a 10-year deal the Yankees bestowed on him in 2007 while thinking he would smash the all-time home run record and become baseball’s celebrated “clean” champion.
A 214-game suspension would save the Yankees about $34 million and make it much easier for them to execute their key business plan to reduce their 2014 payroll to $189 million, a maneuver designed to reset their competitive balance tax rate, save millions of dollars and allow for another ramping up of payroll in 2015. They may find the cost of buying out Rodriguez to be cheaper or at least more palatable than having him wear a Yankees uniform again.
Whether another team would sign Rodriguez as a released free agent in 2015 is unclear. Barry Bonds could not find a job as a free agent after his age 42 season — and that was while he still was playing regularly and being productive. He led the league in on-base percentage in 2006 and 2007, his final two seasons.