By Ross Newhan
Yes, there is due process, a hallmark of the American judicial system.
Yes, there is the grievance forum in which Alex Rodriguez will have the opportunity to overturn or, at least, have his 211 game suspension shortened, preserving millions of dollars.
Make no mistake, however.
This arbitration hearing will be unlike any in baseball history--perhaps unlike any in any court of appel ever, and this is why:
For Rodriguez to win on any level he has to 1) tear down the administrators of the game he continues to insist he loves, 2) discredit Tony Bosch, the former director of the now closed Biogenesis clinic (and a man MLB flipped in its determined investigation), and 3) go after his employer, the New York Yankees, whose uniform he put on again on Monday, batting clean up on the very day that the Commissioner handed down the longest, non-gambling related suspension in baseball history.
In other words, it's going to be a dirty, nasty business in which Rodriguez will have to prove his recent claim that there was a multi-faceted conspiracy against him, proving in the process that Bud Selig, devoid of a positive drug test, did not have authority under MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement.to suspend.him.
There would seem to be no other avenue if Rodriguez is going to overcome the basic evidence, which includes, as Selig cited in a pointed statement and which multiple sources have confirmed to me on multiple occasions, that he tampered with that evidence, obstructed the investigations and used numerous forms of performance enhancing substances, including steroids, human growth hormone and testosterone, over a period of years.
Rodriguez was given a chance to address the process and deny he used PEDs, beyond a short period with the Texas Rangers that he previously admitted to, during a news conference before the Yankees' game with the Chicago White Sox Monday night, but he refused that opportunity, giving a measure of credence to the belief that he will have to center his appeal on a conspiratorial concept, since the evidence is the evidence.
It would have been so easy to simply deny that extended use of PEDs, to emphatically make that point whether true or not, but he skirted it, saying only that the last seven months, coming back from a second hip surgery at 38 and coping with the circumstances that finally manifested in the suspension, have been a nightmare and that, in returning to the field with the Yankees, he is looking forward to the opportunity to take a time out, a deep breath.
Perhaps, at no time during the history of a storied franchise will the Yankees have played a span of 52 regular season games that will be more scrutinized, their third baseman under a microscope that leaves no time for a deep breath.
In all liklihood, in fact, the Rodriguez arbitration hearing won't begin until November, so we have a first: A player facing a 211 game suspension will have a chance to impact the pennant race.
Asked if he thinks the Yankees really wanted him back and are happy he is back.
"If I'm productive," he said, undoubtedly aware that his 647 homers and three MVP Awards will always be looked on skeptically, as will any productivity that ensues.
For Rodriguez, it is a test in more ways than one, and for the commissioner, too. Selig, expected to retire at the end of next season, is determined to leave the legacy of a compatively clean sport after a fitful start in that direction.
Toward that end, as well, the commissioner would have preferred to suspend Rodriguez for life.
Selig clearly knew, however, that 211 had a better chance to survive a challenge, particularly once A-Rod and his battery of lawyers refused to accept a plea deal, as 12 other players linked to Biogenesis did on Monday, agreeing to 50 game suspensions in the wake of Ryan Braun having previously agreed to 65.
Faced with evidence yet undisclosed, Braun and Monday's 12 chose not to fight.
For A-Rod, amid the deceptions of a disintegrating career and reputation, an ugly fight has just begun.