The announcement regarding Alex Rodriguez appeal of the historical 211-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis and PED’s came Saturday morning. Reactions were fast and furious from Rodriguez, the press, MLB and the MLBPA. Notably absent were comments from his peers, the very players Rodriguez claims to be fighting for by threatening to now take his case to Federal Court.
Legal experts that weighed in agreed it’s unlikely the courts will hear Rodriguez case, let alone over turn the arbitration committee’s reduced suspension to the 2014 regular season and post season. Apparently federal judges are reluctant to get involved when an arbitration panel, which has been agreed to by both sides of a collectively bargained contract, renders their decision in a dispute.
Although A-Fraud (a nickname supposedly first given him by his new team mates when he joined the Bronx Bombers) had his suspension reduced 49 games does anyone think he won anything Saturday? His image, legacy and place in baseball history are forever tainted. If recent Hall of Fame balloting is any indication of the future possibility he has to be enshrined with the greats of the game, Rodriguez stands no chance.
Rodriguez is widely considered to be the biggest juicer of them all now. Selena Roberts, a respected columnist for Sports Illustrated wrote in her 2009 book “A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez” that A-Fraud has been juicing since he was in High School. Jose Canseco said he suspected Rodriguez was juicing back then when they were introduced at a gym. He said Rodriguez was almost as strong as him then, and by that time Canseco had been on the sauce for about 10 years.
Amidst a lengthy statement released by Rodriguez on Saturday, the one-time super star stated “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. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
If everything Rodriguez alleges MLB did in the months after the Biogensis scandal was first broke by the Miami New Times on January 22nd, 2013, why did the other 13 players suspended in the investigation accept the penalties handed down by MLB without appealing their own cases? Did they all realize the totality of the evidence was too much to overcome? After all, only three of the players suspended actually tested positive for banned substances. This leads us to another question…if Rodriguez has been doing steroids or other banned substances for much of his career, how was he able to beat the multiple tests that were administered since the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) has been in place? How did the other 10 players suspended beat the tests?
Are we to believe that Biogenesis was the only “anti-aging clinic” in or outside the US supplying MLB players with steroids, HGH and other banned substances? Though we have no proof to the contrary, we do possess common sense. When you think about it, it’s hard to imagine they were the sole provider of PED’s to MLB players. The take away from all this is that once again the cheaters are ahead of the testers in the cat and mouse game of using and getting away with PED enhanced performance.
Before faced with overwhelming testimony which forced Lance Armstrong to finally come clean, he had taken over 500 drug tests on his way to seven Tour de France victories. During his run of victories Armstrong would protest that he was the most tested athlete in the world and continuously pointed to the fact he never tested dirty once. That’s probably not an exaggeration regarding how many drug tests he passed, proving yet again if you have the right drugs, hormones and masking agents the tests are beatable.
Assuming the courts don’t take Rodriguez case what becomes of the player who signed the two largest contracts in MLB history? Countries like Japan and South Korea honor suspensions handed out by MLB, so he won’t be playing overseas. It’s been suggested he could play for an independent minor-league team, but for that to happen he would need the Yankees permission. After 2014 Rodriguez is still owed 61 million dollars by the Yankees for the 2015-17 seasons. It’s not unreasonable to think they won’t give permission for their asset to play elsewhere in 2014.
What happens in 2015 if Rodriguez successfully completes his suspension? He’s still subject to MLB’s random drug testing during the suspension period. Will the Yankees want the media circus that will surely come with the return of Rodriguez, a player who turns 40 in July of 2015? By then he’ll have played in just 44 games in 2013-14, and his declining skills are likely to decline further as he pushes age 40 with little competitive play. To put up with Rodriguez massive ego when he was producing is one thing, but to do so for what may be nothing more than a replacement level player is another. Regardless, the Yankees still owe him $61,000,000 and a buyout of some type is likely in the cards.
Will another team take a chance on Rodriguez for the major league minimum? It’s doubtful. He would become a major distraction for any team with the media attention he’ll attract. Again, with very little to offer on the field he won’t be worth the sideshow that will surely follow him?
Has Rodriguez played his last game of major league baseball? The opinion here is yes he has. He’ll retire with some of the greatest numbers ever put up by a player, but he’ll never receive the recognition for them because of his distinction as being the biggest juicer of all time. That may or may not be accurate or fair, but that’s how many fans will perceive him.
Unlike Bonds, who most people agree was on a Hall of Fame path before he ever did PED’s, having won three MVP’s with the Pirates when he was universally believed to be clean, Rodriguez admitted to using steroids as early as 2001 – three full years before he won his first MVP.
Some like Selena Roberts say Rodriguez did PED’s the bulk of his career. We’ll never know for sure, but Jose Canseco now has company in the discussion of who was baseball’s biggest user of PED’s. That distinction, more than anything he ever did on the field will be Rodriguez legacy.
CORRECTION and EPILOGUE: Barry Bonds won two MVP’s with the Pirates and won his third MVP after his first season with the San Francisco Giants in 1993. In the book “Game of Shadows” which chronicled Bonds and other high-profile athletes use of PED’s, it was reported Bonds began using performance enhancing substances after the 1998 season. As described in the book, the catalyst for Bonds PED use was all the attention Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa received as they chased and broke Roger Maris’s single season home run record in 1998, with McGuire ending up with 70 home runs and Sosa 66. Bonds broke McGuire’s record in 2001 with 73 HR’s, just three years after McGuire’s 70. This illustrates the absurdity of the numbers players were putting up during the height of “the steroid era”.
For what it’s worth, in Bonds first 13 seasons with the Pirates and Giants (1986-1998, Bonds age 21-33 seasons) he had a career slash line of .290/.411/.556 with 411 HR’s, 445 SB’s and 307 more BB’s than K’s. In the nine years to follow, from 1999 to his retirement after the 2007 season (Bonds age 34-42 seasons) Bonds slash line was .316/.505/.712 with 351 HR’s. He won four consecutive MVP’s during this time in his age 36-39 seasons, bringing his total to an unprecedented seven MVP’s.
Bonds was a free agent after the 2006 season and was just 21 HR’s short of Hank Aaron’s career record of 755 HR’s. The Giants brought him back on a one-year contract to break Hammerin’ Hank’s record. After breaking Aaron’s career HR mark of 755 HR’s with a total of 762, Bonds didn’t retire by choice. No one wanted him.
The Giants wanted him bad enough to break Aaron’s record going into 2007, for which they paid Bonds over 15.5 million dollars on a one-year deal, but once the record was broken they no longer had any use for Bonds. In his final season Bonds had a slash line .276/.480/.565 with 28 HR’s and an OPS+ of 169.
There’s no such thing as an unemployed baseball player with an OPS over 1.000, but performance wasn’t the issue anymore. By this time everyone knew Bonds was juiced, and the baseball public turned on juiced up players faster than they embraced them when the hometown team needed a slugger. The beginning of the end of the steroid era had arrived.
Rodriguez last year with an OPS over 1.000 was also 2007. In the last two seasons Rodriguez OPS was .780. This time there’s no records to be inevitably and immediately be broken. This is why you’ll probably never see Rodriguez playing major league baseball again.