The long national nightmare that is the Alex Rodriguez suspension appeal may finally be coming to an end. According to an ESPN New York report, A-Rod’s hearing process may be in the process of concluding, possibly as soon as Friday. And it may be resolved in a manner which most probably weren’t expecting.
The ESPN New York report says A-Rod is contemplating accepting a reduced suspension for the Biogenenis-related case. Rodriguez, of course, is appealing his 211-game ban handed down to him from MLB last year for “his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone over the course of multiple years”.
The suspension was especially harsh because it far exceeded the guidelines laid out in the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement agreed to by MLB and the MLBPA, and was more than three times longer than that of any of the 12 other players who were punished as part of the same scandal. According to that drug agreement, a first-time offender can only be banned for 50 games. Despite his 2009 admission that he had taken steroids during a three-year period beginning in 2001, he had never been suspended for PED usage.
But the league has also been trying to punish him for more than just the PED use. MLB said “Rodriguez’s discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.” So, while MLB issued the historic season-and-a-half suspension, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz is left to determine whether it was appropriate.
The appeals hearing has been messy from the start. MLB had paid a former criminal for stolen documents from the anti-aging clinic that became the centerpiece of the league’s case. A-Rod’s legal team has also sued the league for allegedly paying Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch $5 million for his testimony.
Rodriguez’s team had spent their time arguing that the league has been on a witch hunt against the Yankees’ third baseman to get rid of him, and that the Bosch deal was part of that. During one day of the hearing in November, A-Rod cursed and stormed out of the room after learning Commissioner Bud Selig wouldn’t testify.
He has spent months refusing to accept any penalties levied against him, and saying he would fight the suspension all the way to the end. But it sounds like he is now willing to change his tune. Now that a decision from Horowitz is forthcoming, he is reportedly open to the idea of accepting a reduced suspension, possibly in the sub-100 game range.
Sources say it’s a largely financially-driven decision, but one that’s also mental. Appealing this any further would require a temporary restraining order and a trip to federal court. That would require millions of dollars in legal fees, which could approach the amount of salary he would lose during his suspension anyway, and potentially wasted time, which is also a factor for the 38-year-old. That’s not to mention the toll that process would also take on Rodriguez’s fragile ego.
If Horowitz does come back with a suspension that would keep him out around just a half-season, A-Rod would be foolish to turn it down. MLB will get him one way or another. If he truly does want to continue his career, as he has said he does, being able to get back to that at any point in 2014 should be considered a victory.
But even if he does decide to accept a suspension and move on, don’t expect him to say it’s an admission of guilt. He will spin it as being the easiest and quickest way to get him back on the field. No matter what he says or does, the drama surrounding A-Rod won’t end. It will only begin a new chapter.