Allegations that A-Rod’s camp outed players puts union in tough spot
Citing “two sources with direct knowledge of the matter,” 60 Minutes reported Friday morning that “members of . . . Alex Rodriguez’s inner circle” obtained and leaked documents implicating Ryan Braun and Rodriguez’s Yankees teammate Francisco Cervelli in the Biogenesis scandal in February.
Allegations that Rodriguez obtained Biogenesis documents for the purpose of destroying them surfaced in April, and Major League Baseball’s given rationale for suspending Rodriguez for 211 games — as opposed to the 50- or 65-game suspensions handed down to the other major leaguers implicated in the scandal — hinges in part on its assertion that he engaged in “a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”
This latest allegation fits neatly into that narrative and corresponds exactly with the contents of this Feb. 5 report by Yahoo! Sports. According to 60 Minutes sources, the version of the documents obtained by the Miami New Times, the alternative weekly that initially broke the Biogenesis scandal in January, had the names of Braun, Cervelli and Orioles infielder Danny Valencia (the last of whom was not disciplined by MLB) redacted, but Rodriguez’s camp obtained unredacted versions of those documents and provided them to Yahoo! Sports.
The degree to which this will impact Rodriguez’s appeal of his suspension is unclear, because it’s not yet known whether or not this is something MLB already knew about. It does Rodriguez no favors in the court of public opinion, though it’s difficult to imagine he has much farther to fall in that regard. Rodriguez and his legal team continue to deny everything, telling 60 Minutes that “the drumbeat of false allegations continues.” Indeed, Rodriguez continues to insist that he hasn’t used performance enhancing drugs since 2003 and never had any relationship with the Biogenesis clinic or its founder Anthony Bosch.
If these latest allegations are correct, however, Rodriguez, assuming he is held responsible for the actions of his “inner circle,” would have violated the collectively bargained Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, which lays out in great detail exactly who and what may be made public with regard to violations of the Program and in no way allows for third parties to publicly out players.
That would put the Players Association in a tricky spot. It is in the union’s interest to fight Rodriguez’s suspension because of the precedent it sets of allowing the commissioner to hand down lengthy suspensions outside of the schedule in the current Program. There is language in the program that enables the commissioner to levy such a suspension (specifically section 7.G.2, “A player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by the Commissioner for any Player violation of Section 2 above not reference in Section 7.A through 7.F above.”) but this is the first significant use of that clause against a player in the union. However, if Rodriguez is in clear violation of the agreement and violated it by outing other players, his actions would seem to be indefensible, even by his own union.
It’s important to remember that the union represents the players and the players are becoming increasingly outspoken about their lack of tolerance for cheaters and their desire for stiffer penalties for those in violation of the Program. As one American Leaguer said to ESPN’s Howard Bryant last week, “Guy uses steroids. He then puts up better numbers than I do. He goes to free agency and gets the years and the money, takes a job I don’t get and now I have to scramble during the winter to find another slot. Then, he gets busted for steroids and we use my union dues for his lawyers, his defense and his appeal? And that makes sense to you? That bulls— is fair?”
With Rodriguez, the union is being forced to walk a tightrope between supporting stiffer penalties and keeping the power of the commissioner in check. It’s not clear that it can successfully do both in this case.