Since Christmas, reports have repeatedly popped up indicating that a decision on Alex Rodriguez’s performance-enhancing-drug suspension would be made soon. There had been so many cries of “Wolf!” that when I saw a similar report yesterday I paid it no attention. Shame on me.
Earlier today, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz ruled that Alex Rodriguez will be suspended without pay for the entire 2014 season, including the postseason. His decision, which is binding under the terms of baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, actually reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from the 211 games that Major League Baseball had originally announced back in early August. Still, the 162-game (plus postseason) penalty is unprecedented in its length and in the economic impact it will have.
That Rodriguez may miss the entire season is remarkable considering he has never before been suspended for a violation of baseball’s policy on performance enhancing drugs. The Joint Drug Agreement that sets forth the standards and penalties related to performance enhancing drugs provides for a 50-game suspension for first-time offenders, which is the penalty that every other player linked to Biogenesis accepted during the 2013 season (with the exception of Ryan Braun, who agreed to 65 games).
If the arbitrator’s ruling stands, this will be the longest non-lifetime-ban suspension in baseball history. In addition, A-Rod’s suspension will be without pay. That means he stands to lose his entire 2014 base salary of $25 million. That $25 million will come off the books of the New York Yankees, freeing them to make a play for Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka or one of the other free agent pitchers still on the market. It also increases their chances of staying under the luxury tax threshold.
Make no mistake about it; this is an extremely harsh punishment. Especially considering Rodriguez has never once tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. In 2009, he did admit to using steroids from 2001 to 2003.
Rodriguez is already 38 years old. He’s already showing signs of the deterioration, of breaking down, of the decline in production that comes to all ballplayers as they near 40. Having to sit out an entire season will only accelerate the aging of his baseball skills. If this suspension is upheld, A-Rod’s career in serious jeopardy.
That’s why Rodriguez can’t simply accept the arbitrator’s decision. He has to fight it. He has no other choice, and at this point nothing really left to lose.
Rodriguez has already released a statement indicating he intends to appeal the decision to a federal court. That comes as no real surprise. When last we saw the Yankees third baseman storming out of his arbitration hearing he proclaimed that was his intent, regardless of outcome.
Rodriguez, The Major League Baseball Players Association, Major League Baseball and the New York Yankees have each released statements in the wake of arbitrator Horowitz’s ruling, which I’ve shared below.
“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association
“The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel’s decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez’s unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision.”
Major League Baseball
“For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights. While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”
The New York Yankees
“The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel.”