Saturday, February 8, 2014

A-Rod Waves The White Flag

(Courtesy of Getty Images)

After burning every bridge on his way to fighting what he believed was a conspiracy against him and trying to get his 162-game suspension reduced, Alex Rodriguez has now apparently changed course and decided on a less combative course of action.  As first reported by Jim Baumbach of Newsday, A-Rod voluntarily dismissed his lawsuits against MLB, MLBPA, and Bud Selig yesterday, the day that was his side's deadline to respond to MLB's request that the case be thrown out.  A-Rod's lawyer, Joe Tacopina, confirmed that Alex will no longer try to fight the suspension and will not be attending Yankee Spring Training.  After all the initial weirdness of this story, all the barbs traded in the media, and all the accusations from both sides, it looks like this media circus is finally closing its tents and moving out of town.

What happened to change Alex's mind?  Who knows?  Maybe his lawyers finally sat him down and explained that this wasn't a case that they could win and it wasn't worth his time and money to keep trying.  Maybe Alex came to his senses and realized that even if he did win, he wouldn't be winning in the long-term.  The acid that he had flung at the league and the players' union had made him an outcast and if he did return to the field next year he was almost assuredly going to be taking heaters in his ear and his back and his ribs and his legs.

Maybe he just got tired of keeping up the facade.  I don't think there were or still are too many people out there who actually thought A-Rod was innocent in all this.  Everything he said and every move his legal team made looked more like grandstanding and trying to delay the inevitable more than anything else.  If you're fighting a losing battle and have been from the beginning, there always comes a point where you just can't do it anymore.  Just ask Roberto Duran.

The question now becomes what does this mean for A-Rod going forward?  Both MLB and MLBPA issued statements praising him for making the right decision yesterday, so at face value it looks like there might be a little wood left for him to try to rebuild the bridges to 2015.  One thing that A-Rod always did seem sincere about was his desire to keep playing baseball.  He's still under contract for another 3 years, so he could conceivably come back at the start of the 2015 season.  If this decision yesterday was the first step in him getting out of the limelight, laying low for a year, working out, staying in game shape, and giving the rest of baseball and its fanbase time to lose some of the hatred they have for him, he could come back next year a little less of a villain than he is now.

Realistically though, I think the decision to stop the legal battle and accept the suspension may have been the final nail in the coffin of his career.  He's going to be 40 by the time his suspension is up, 1 full year removed from Major League action and almost 2 full years removed.  The trend he's been following physically doesn't suggest he'll ever be physically capable of playing baseball full-time again and the black clouds that are always going to follow him around because of this legal firestorm and mud slinging are more than enough for the Yankees to not want him around anymore.  With only 3 years left on his deal, it seems very likely that they will work towards a buyout and cut their ties to Alex.

If and when that happens, I think he'll find himself in the same boat that Barry Bonds did when he was forced to retire.  There aren't many teams out there who are going to be interested in a broken down 40-year-old who brings this much negative publicity to him, even on something like a non-guaranteed MiL deal.  In his attempt to start to fix some of the damage he caused and keep the window of opportunity for him to play again open, Alex may have just shut it and locked it.

I was very clearly on A-Rod's side in all this.  I think what MLB and the players' union did to go after him was wrong and a violation of the CBA.  We've still never seen any hard evidence to indicate that Alex was using PEDs, still never seen a positive test, and yet MLB found a way to shoehorn an unprecedented 1-year ban through the system.  That's wrong and kudos to A-Rod for attempting to stick up for himself in that respect and fight to get some level of fairness restored to this whole ordeal.  I also think dropping the lawsuits, accepting the punishment, and not attending ST is the right move for him to make and I'm glad he did.  Now we can at least move forward with spring camp and the 2014 season without the distraction of A-Rod and his fight with MLB hanging over everything.  At the end of the day, that's the most important thing.

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