Yesterday, Alex Rodriguez finally received the announcement we all have been waiting months to find out. The arbitrator reduced his suspension from 211 games to 162 (including any post-season games). ARod, as per his personality, was not happy to say the least and immediately threatened to take the case to federal court.
The MLBPA is not supporting him doing this. In a collective bargaining situation, when an arbitrator and used and the result seems to be fair (i.e. it doesn’t appear the arbitrator committed fraud etc), a union has to live with the result. ARod is going to have a very hard time convincing any judge to even hear the case, let alone, overrule the arbitrator.
So, what does this all mean going forward not just for ARod but for the Yankees? For ARod it pretty much means his playing days are done. Even though he will still be under contract with the Yankees through 2017 so that means technically he could play for them again in 2015, I’m guessing the Yankees will push for a buyout of the remainder of his contract. If ARod doesn’t agree to that (which is what I’m betting will actually happen), I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees begin looking into voiding the remainder of his contract.
Voiding the remainder of his contract is not going to be easy. MLB player contracts are some of the most ironclad documents in business; they’re not easy to get out of. However, most player contracts have a “morals” clause, so if push comes to shove I’m betting the Yankees will try to use one of those loopholes to get out of the deal. The MLBPA would not be happy with that action though, and the Yankees would only do it as a last resort.
Knowing ARod and his ego, he will still believe he can play in 2015, even though he hasn’t been even a shell of his former self in the last couple of seasons, so I see a massive legal battle between ARod and the Yankees once this suspension is nearing an end.
ARod’s immediate future is a little more murky. When he makes the push to have the case heard in federal court, not only will that be almost impossible for him, he runs the risk of the evidence presented in the “closed” trial being made public. ARod may believe that he was railroaded in the trial, however, I’m guessing that there is somethings he doesn’t wish see the light of day (him trying to buy the same documents he was saying MLB was wrong in trying to buy, him or his agents releasing the names of the other Biogenesis players to try to get “ahead” of the story etc.). ARod may be in the position that Pete Rose was all those many years ago – just agree to the suspension because you don’t want your reputation any further by the evidence that could be released (which is why I believe Rose agreed to the lifetime ban – he didn’t want all teh evidence against him made public).
Because of ARod’s ego, I fully expect him to keep pushing to “prove his innoncence.” I still don’t believe he thinks he’s done anything wrong. Was he “railroaded” during the trial? Quite possibly. After all, it was almost like a mob trial – the witnesses weren’t exactly people of the highest moral standing, and some people such as Bud Selig were not forced to testify (and he shoudn’t have been provided Rob Manfred’s testimony was believed by the arbitrator to be believeable and truthful). However, I do believe ARod is guilty of everything MLB accused him of.
The biggest winners in all this are the Yankees and MLB itself. MLB finally has one of the “faces of the Steroid Era” suspended and they did so in “court” and not just the court of public opinion. They can keep saying to the world that their drug testing program is the toughest in American sports and going forward they have the precedent to suspend players for more games than the Joint Drug Agreement calls for if there is evidence the player did more regarding PEDs than simply use (coerce other players to use, keep quiet etc.).
As I mentioned above, the Yankees now should be able to get under the $189 million limit they set for themselves due to not having to pay ARod for 2014. This means they will still be able to go after a pitcher like Masahiro Tanaka, and now know for sure that they need to find a third baseman for next season (at a minimum). There is still plenty of time before pitchers and catchers report, so they should be able to fill the remaining holes in their lineup.
Also, because ARod was suspended for more than specified in the Joint Drug Agreement, they may have an easier time with voiding his contract if it comes to that.
ARod was one of the best talents baseball had ever seen. Sadly, we’ll never know how much of that was pure talent and how much was pharmaceutically induced. Hopefully, with this ending the Biogenesis scandal, baseball itself can finally move past the “Steroid Era.” However, scientists will always stay several steps ahead of the tests, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another BALCO or Biogenesis in the future. I just hope that if it does happen again, the number of players caught up in it are just a few and not many.