The issue of the weekend – overshadowing the results of the NFL divisional round playoff games – was the arbitrator’s ruling in the Alex Rodriguez matter. Unless you live in a cave somewhere, you have to know that A-Rod is suspended from baseball for all of the 2014 season (including any post-season games the Yankees might play). I think the length of the suspension is about right for the following reasons:
1. A-Rod admitted to taking PEDs in the past – remember, his cousin slipped them to him without his knowledge then. That makes him a two-time user meaning the minimum suspension would be 100 games under the penalty protocol in the CBA.
2. By appealing the decision he stood to gain exoneration and no suspension; he should therefore have something at risk too.
3. Reports allege that he tried to conceal and destroy evidence related to the investigation of Biogenesis. If – I said IF – that is correct, then he goes way beyond being a “drug-cheat” and sinks quickly into “Lance Armstrong territory”.
However, the length of the suspension is not the interesting part of the story here. What I find much more interesting is how this opera will play out between now and 2017 when A-Rod’s contract with the Yankees expires. As things stand now, A-Rod will miss the 2014 season and then will be eligible to return to the Yankees as a player in good standing, which means that the Yankees will owe him $61M over the 2015-2017 seasons. Let me go out on a limb and guess that A-Rod will show up for work to claim that money. Oh, by the way, there could be bonus money added to that total depending on how many more home runs he hits and the bonuses – as best I can find – could total an additional $24M should he break Barry Bonds’ record for the most home runs in a career.
On 60 Minutes last night, Anthony Bosch was the prime attraction. He was reportedly MLB’s “star witness” in the arbitration hearing. Let me just say that he did not ooze credibility on the program. Nonetheless, his statements were direct and contained little nuance. A-Rod did not appear but his lead attorney did. The attorney made a strange point in the discussion there:
The attorney said that Bosch had been a witness but had not been under oath or subject to cross-examination so how could anyone take what he said as factual. He has a point. Except…
60 Minutes said they invited A-Rod to be part of the program but he declined. If he had been on the program, he could have spoken without being under oath and without any cross-examination. If those conditions are so lenient and beneficial, why did he decline the offer? Surely, he is not camera shy…
The interesting thing for me is what happens in the next month or so. I know that A-Rod’s lawyers say they will file a suit in Federal court appealing the arbitrator’s decision and the whole process. It seems to me that arbitration as the way of resolving contract disputes has a long history in MLB and that it was a negotiating point sought by the MLBPA. If that is the case, I do not see how a Federal court would have much to say on the matter. I guess if A-Rod can show that there was an improper relationship between MLB and the arbitrator or that the arbitrator denied A-Rod some Constitutional rights, the court could step in. Absent that…
However, what happens in late February 2014 when players are supposed to report to Spring Training? As someone who hopes to be part of the Yankees in 2015 at the latest, A-Rod will surely want to demonstrate to his employer his willingness to work at his craft. At the same time, reports say that his suspension removes him temporarily from the 40-man roster meaning that the Yankees – at their discretion – could allow him to participate via a specific invitation. If the Yankees do that, consider the media circus that surrounded the OJ Simpson trial to have been a minor kerfuffle. Moreover, the media circus itself should appeal to A-Rod and his narcissistic tendencies.
The Yankees could shuttle A-Rod off to their minor league training area where he would work with kids not able to make the major league camp. It is difficult to tell which side would think the worst of that idea:
For A-Rod, it would be demeaning as Hell to have to field grounders and take batting practice with a bunch of guys still working on their second razor blade whose reminiscences are about the State High School Baseball Tournament.
For the Yankees, this move would put a recidivist PED user and a person with a few tendencies that are sociopathic in the midst of their young prospects. That could wind up to be akin to pissing in the soup.
Even more interesting than the Spring Training days might be, consider what might happen if the St. Paul Saints – an independent team in the American Association – makes A-Rod an offer to play for them. [Remember, Bill Veeck’s son is part of the team management and has a genetic predisposition for outrageous promotional activities.] That would put the Yankees in a conundrum. On one hand, they have a player under contract for 3 years and $61M and he has to take a year off; might he not be a better player when he returns if he gets in some practice time with the independent team. On the other hand, they have a player under contract for 3 years and $61M; might they be a tad concerned about what kind of training and medical attention he might get with an independent team.
In case anyone thought that the arbitrator’s decision would give him/her a respite from A-Rod news for the balance of the 2014 MLB season, think again. This story is not over by any measure and it could get verrry interesting. [/Arte Johnson].
One side note regarding the move by A-Rod’s attorneys to appeal the matter to a Federal court. Even though I do not see how the court might find a way to intervene, I think it would be a good thing if it did in this case. To date, most of the evidence in the Biogenesis matter has been held very tightly. If the case went to court, much of that evidence would be available to the public – including I presume the arbitrator’s report which has not been released save for the “bottom line”. Having all of the evidence and seeing how well – or how poorly – that evidence supports the allegations would be interesting to me.
Finally, Scott Ostler had an observation in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle that might portend the future for A-Rod in addition to the subject of the observation:
“Barry Bonds continues his downward slide in Hall of Fame voting. If only Barry could somehow, you know, boost his performance.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………