Saturday, January 11, 2014

A-Rod on an Island of His Own Making

      By Ross Newhan

      No man is an island?

      Well, Alex Rodriguez is.

      He is a man without constituency, isolated except for his retinue of lawyers and public relations personnel.

      The players union? The union did what it had to do in supporting him (any player would have been given the same support) in his appeal of Major League Baseball's 211 game suspension, but when the arbitrator announced that he was upholding a record 162 game suspension--covering the 2014 season and post-season--the union released a brief statement saying it strongly disagreed with the decision but recognized it as "final and binding" and respected the collective bargaining process that led to it.

     Teammates and fellow players? Where were their tweets Saturday?

     The New York Yankees? Good riddance. Oh, a Yankee statement couldn't go that far, but are they happy to save about $22 million in 2014 salary and to be free of the daily distraction that Rodriguez had become? There can be no doubt about that even though it isn't clear who will be playing third base in the coming season beyond Kelly Johnson as the left handed hitting part of a possible platoon.

     Kelly Johnson replacing Alex Rodriguez?

     Call it an inglorious way to finish, an arrogant, egotistical and colossal waste of talent and intelligence. 

     Thirty nine in July, having undergone two hip operations and played only a handful of games in 2013, how likely is it that Rodriguez can come back in 2015?

     A federal court could throw him a lifeline by ordering a stay in the arbitrator's decision, allowing him to start the new season in uniform, but that it is a longshot, according to legal experts.

     Courts seldom intercede in arbitration cases created by collective bargaining.

    Rodriguez, in a statement Saturday, continued to say the deck was stacked against him, that the arbitrator heard evidence and testimony that wouldn't have been allowed in a courtroom, but he has been firing from that repaired hip from the time that Biogenesis scandal first surfaced, calling it a personnel witchhunt by MLB, throwing legal and/or personal grenades at Bud Selig, the Yankees, the arbitrator (Fredric Horowitz) and a Yankee team physician.

    Make no mistake: MLB went hard after Rodriguez and the other players implicated in Biogenesis, and aspects of the investigation, paying for evidence, according to reports, and leaning on testimony from a turned felon, may have seemed distasteful then, and distasteful now. However, in a case in which only one of 14 players had a positive drug test on his record, that evidence can be assumed to have been and to be unprecedented, ultimately leading to an unprecedented suspension.               

     For Rodriguez, of course, it didn't have to come to 162 games.

    The other 13 players considered the evidence and accepted far shorter bans--12 agreeing to 50 games, and Ryan Braun, who had tested positive in 2012 only to have the test thrown out on a technicality, accepted 65. Rodriguez was in MLB's crosshairs from the time he rejected any and all offers of a plea bargain, and while the determined wrapup of Biogenesis represents a positive development for baseball in the ongoing battle to eliminate the use of performance enhancing drugs, it is alo a sad and, perhaps, final day for a player (wealth aside) who should have been another kind of face of the game.


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