(Courtesy of Angel Franco/The NY Times)
At long last, the arbitrator decision in the Alex Rodriguez Biogenesis suspension case was handed down this past weekend. As many expected, the decision was not in Alex's favor. As I expertly predicted (for once), the decision ended up being 162 games instead of MLB's original 211. The immediate reaction from writers, bloggers, and fans alike was plentiful and spread across a wide range of feelings, and that tidal wave of activity only increased in size after last night's "60 Minutes" piece on the topic aired. I tried to keep my thoughts on the decision to a minimum while the finer details and reactions from all parties involved came out, and I think I've had enough time to read everything, mull the whole situation over in my head, and comment intelligently on the matter. My take on everything after the jump.
- First, I think it's pretty obvious that the intent in reducing the suspension from 211 games to 162 was to create an "everybody wins" outcome. MLB "wins" because they still get the long suspension they were looking for. A-Rod "wins" because his side made a compelling enough case to get the length reduced. And the Yankees "win" because they get the full amount of A-Rod's 2014 salary and luxury tax value off their books.
- The problem I have with that decision, and the attempt to spin it that way if that was Fredric Horowitz's intent, is the line of questioning it opens up as to why he felt it was appropriate to reduce the suspension. One of, if not the biggest point of contention in the appeal was the legitimacy of MLB's evidence against A-Rod and the means by which they obtained it. If everything there was on the up-and-up, and the evidence presented was as rock solid as MLB claimed it was, why would Horowitz feel the need to reduce the suspension by 50 games*?
* (I know it's technically 49 games, but 50 sounds better)
- Furthermore, if he felt there was enough inconsistency and illegitimacy in MLB's case to cut 50 games out of the suspension, why wasn't there enough to throw the whole suspension out? This was supposed to be a black and white case and cutting 50 games out instead of either upholding or abolishing the whole suspension creates a ton of new layers of gray.
- My simple guess to answer that question is that because there was no positive test, one point that A-Rod's legal team pointed to multiple times to argue how unfair the suspension was, Horowitz felt it appropriate to remove the 50 games that would have been required for a first-time offender and then uphold the other 162 based on MLB's evidence of how egregious A-Rod's attempts to impede the investigation were. Not saying I agree with that at all, but I could see Horowitz following that logic.
- While I fully expect A-Rod and his legal team to drag this out as long as possible and follow through on their attempt to get a court injunction on the ruling, I don't see any way that works out in their favor. I'm no legal expert by any means, but from what I understand federal judges very rarely overturn arbitration rulings in cases like this. The fact that this particular arbitration hearing was part of a collectively bargained process between MLB and MLBPA makes it even more of an uphill battle for the A-Rod camp and when all the dust settles I think 162 is the number he's going to have to serve.
- As far as reactions and statements go, I think the MLBPA should be called out for their shameful performance in all of this. To a certain degree I can understand Horowitz playing on both sides of the fence when it came to ruling on the matter. What I can't understand is the Players Association taking the same path, immediately calling out MLB for how they handled the situation and saying they disagree with the ruling and then also issuing the standard "we respect the process" BS line and not doing anything to support A-Rod. If you don't like the guy, fine. I don't think I'd be his biggest fan either as a player with all the negative publicity he's brought in terms of PEDs. But it's still the job of the players union to support their fellow players, and to stand on sidelines and hang A-Rod out to dry while issuing textbook statements to the media is a chickenshit move, plain and simple. If you're going to publicly say you don't agree with what's happening to a player, be men enough to actually lend some real support to that player.
- Even worse than the MLBPA's reaction was that of MLB itself. Maybe it's just me, but their statements always seem to have this slight hint of smarm and arrogance towards A-Rod and the players and that just rubs me the wrong way. It's almost as if they can't resist getting that little jab in to remind everyone that they're the big swinging dicks on the block and don't you forget it. They come out the big winners in all of this and yet they still can't resist dancing on graves and pouring salt in wounds.
- Case in point, the "60 Minutes" piece last night. Holy shit was that a 10,000 pound bag of crap in a 5 pound bag. One would have to assume that these interviews were done prior to the announcement of the decision, no? If that's the case, then how can MLB honestly say they're following the guidelines of the process? They're out talking publicly about a case that's supposed to be taking place behind closed doors and they're even rolling out their star witness to say whatever he has to say to make their side of the case sound better.
- If Rob Manfred's part of the interview was his final audition for Bud's replacement as commissioner, I think he did a terrible job. He admitted on camera that MLB paid for the bulk of the Biogenesis evidence, which is sketchy enough on its own, and then admitted that nobody from MLB bothered to do a background check on the source of the evidence. Would you pay a 6-figure sum of money to somebody you didn't know named "Bobby" for evidence that could make or break your case? I know I wouldn't. And the whole thing with Bosch? What a crock. You admit to paying for his security and his legal fees, you acknowledge that his story has changed before, and you still sit there and say with a straight face that you believe him this time, when it's in your best interests to do so? Get out of my face with that.
- Moving things back towards the baseball side, I understand that it's within A-Rod's rights to come to Spring Training and participate. That's part of the agreement and he's free to do as he sees fit. But if he is sincere in all his talk about wanting to help the Yankees and do what's best for his team, he needs to let it go and stay away from spring camp. There's nothing good that can come from it and no point in going through a spring routine when he isn't allowed to play when the games start to count anyway. It would just be one more opportunity for him to stick it to MLB and keep up the act of fighting the suspension, and the media shitstorm that will come with it will not help the team in any way. If Alex is truly as big a team player as he says he is, he should do the right thing and stay home when spring camp opens.
- Looking past this season and into the future, I think it's safe to say Alex's playing career is over if/when the court injunction attempt fails. By the time the suspension ends, he'll be 40 years old coming off almost 2 full years away from the game. His body might be rested but it won't be in any kind of better shape to play full-time baseball than it is right now. And his reputation around the game is so bad at this point that I can't see any team being willing to take on that burden on the chance that he can still be productive for a few months.
- My guess is the Yankees will let this season play out, go into the next offseason and very early on release A-Rod and cut all ties with him. They'll be on the hook for 3 years and $61 million at that point, and while that's still a big monetary pill to swallow it'll be worth it to cut the cord and remove A-Rod from their equation going forward. Whether or not he tries to hook on with another team in 2015, I don't think there's a snowball's chance he ever plays another game as a New York Yankee.
- With how quickly each side scrambled to make their statements and put their respective spins on this, I doubt we'll ever get a full look at just what evidence MLB had, what evidence A-Rod had, and where the truth lies in how this whole thing went down. That probably wouldn't make either side look any better and neither side looks particularly good right now as it is.
- Personally, I think that Alex absolutely took any and everything he's alleged to have taken in this case and I do believe he got them from Tony Bosch. For that I think he should be suspended. I also think that MLB has been in full witch hunt mode against him from the beginning, I believe they did use improper and illegal means to gain the evidence they supposedly have against him, and I think the fact that they've never once offered to show the evidence to the public to prove their side of the case speaks to that. They're just as dirty in this as Alex, if not dirtier, and I think the fact that they pushed this hard and handed down such a harsh punishment without a positive PED test in hand is going to come back and bite them in the ass big time when the next round of labor talks comes up. In my opinion, MLB actually comes out looking worse in all of this than A-Rod and to me that's much more damaging to the sport's image and future than any amount of PED use.