I know, you’re tired of talking about Alex Rodriguez and his war with Bud Selig and Major League Baseball over his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Still, we all knew we were going to have to go through another bombardment of stories about the subject whenever the arbitration system played itself out and a final decision (and I use that term loosely, because I’m not all that convinced this decision is “final”) was announced concerning ARod’s suspension for using PEDs.
That decision came down over the weekend and the tie-breaking member of the panel ruled that a reduction from the MLB-imposed 211 game suspension would be reduced to 162 games. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that baseball plays 162-game seasons.
As I read and heard the details of the decision, I couldn’t generate even a little bit of enthusiasm for it. Even the promotional spots during CBS’ NFL Playoff game Sunday afternoon for the big “60 Minutes” interview of ARod’s one-time PED supplier, Tony Bosch, couldn’t get me to care about what any of the parties had to say. I wasn’t even going to watch the interviews that CBS magically had conducted, edited and prepared for airing the same weekend as the announcement of the arbitrator’s ruling.
I channel surfed a bit after the football game ended, but I found nothing I really felt like watching. So I watched “60 Minutes.” After the half-hour segment in which Bosch, Bud Selig, Selig’s likely heir as MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and ARod’s attorney Joseph Tacopina all got face time, I came away with one thought on the whole thing.
Nuke ‘em all.
I don’t believe any of them. Every one of them is lying or, at best, not revealing the entire truth.
Bosch is the embodiment of sleaze.
Selig did nothing to change my feelings about him. I thought he was a sanctimonious, incompetent ass before and his small bit of camera time on the show reinforced that view. Manfred is nothing more than a Selig lap dog.
Tacopina has a job to do, I know. If serial killers are entitled to the best legal representation they can afford, then certainly a baseball player who finds himself on the opposite side of the Commissioner of Baseball deserves the same. But he still came across as a slimy lawyer representing an even slimier client.
CBS and their interviewer, Scott Pelley, couldn’t have possibly created a more one-sided piece than what they ended up airing. I grew up watching Mike Wallace and others on “60 Minutes” play hardball with interview subjects. Bosch, Selig and Manfred got slow-pitch Nerf balls.
What a joke.
Some media are saying there were no winners in this debacle – that it made everyone look bad. I disagree. There was a winner. The New York Yankees escaped the “60 Minutes” segment without so much as seeing anyone have to answer a question over their obvious motives for wanting Rodriguez to be assessed the longest possible suspension.
But, as everyone who is not a Yankees fan knows, any time the Yankees win at anything, everyone else loses (at least everyone else who isn’t in the business of making money from the Yankees winning a lot of baseball games).
In fact, the Yankees are having one helluva party right now.
With Rodriguez’’s suspension, they’re off the hook for the $25 million salary he was due for the 2014 season. That means they can either spend that money on someone who, unlike Rodriguez, is actually still good at baseball or they can use the savings to meet their stated goal of remaining below the league’s luxury tax limit for payroll this year.
There’s a bit of speculation over how the team might manage to keep the player out of their Spring Training camp without violating the terms of the player agreement negotiated with the MLBPA, but here’s a point I haven’t seen mentioned in the media: If the Yankees manage to qualify for the postseason, I don’t think there’s any reason they couldn’t activate Rodriguez at that point.
Would they want the pariah in their clubhouse and in their dugout?
Don’t kid yourself. If there’s anything the Yankees organization wants more than to rid themselves of as much as possible of the stupid contract Rodriguez was handed by George Steinbrenner on his way to his everlasting resting place, that thing is winning another World Series. If they believe Rodriguez can help them get that with his bat in the postseason, they may posture and moan about it, probably telling the world that they’re only doing it because they “have to” for legal reasons, but then they’ll suit him up.
[NOTE: A review of the actual arbitrator decision, now made public as an exhibit in Rodriguez's lawsuit against MLB and the MLBPA, clarifies that his suspension is for the entire 2014 regular season AND the 2014 post-season.]
As Ed Thoma at Baseball Outsider reminded us in his piece on Monday, this isn’t the first time the Yankees have attempted to escape responsibility for a badly thought out long-term contract. In 1990, Commissioner Fay Vincent banned George Steinbrenner from baseball for life* after an investigation revealed that the Yankees’ owner paid a sleazeball informant to provide dirt on Dave Winfield in the hope that it would provide sufficient grounds to void his contract.
* As it turned out, “for life,” in this case, turned out to be a bit over two years, after which Vincent gave in and lifted the ban. Too bad Pete Rose couldn’t have had the same kind of “lifetime” ban. Even more so, it’s too bad Steinbrenner didn’t have the same kind of “lifetime” ban that Rose has had enforced upon him.
So one Commissioner banned a Yankees owner for life for paying a scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to void the player’s contract.
Now, over 20 years later, a different Commissioner pays a different scumbag for dirt on a player, in an attempt to suspend that player for a full season of games, far more than anything called for under the terms of the current negotiated drug plan with the players’ union. In doing so, the Commissioner gets the Yankees off the hook for $25 million of salary owed to the player otherwise.
But I’m sure that’s just a very happy coincidence for the Yankees.
I agree with Thoma’s conclusion. The lesson here is that, if you want to get off the hook for your stupid decisions and get out of a contract, you don’t take action yourself – you get the Commissioner’s office to do it for you.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel at all sorry for Rodriguez. He made his bed and he can lie in it. He’s about as unlikeable a player as there has probably ever been in baseball (and in a game that’s given us Ty Cobb and Barry Bonds, that’s saying something).
But this action by MLB sets a dangerous precedent and the next player they decide to go after with another “the ends justify the means” vendetta may not be someone as universally despised as Rodriguez. Now, when that happens, they will have precedent on their side and it will be challenging, at best, for the player or the union to do much about it.
In addition, as John Paul Morosi pointed out on Monday, Selig’s actions seem to have turned the players and their union from allies in his war against PED use in to adversaries again. While clean players and the MLBPA have been on board with tougher testing and attempts to clean up the game, they certainly are not going to stand by and let the Commissioner unilaterally blow past the penalties called for in the negotiated agreement. Frankly, nor should they.
Morosi speculates – and I think he’s right – that Selig’s actions, by turning the relationship with the Players Association in to something much more adversarial in nature, pose a risk to future labor peace.
Those who have stood up most often to defend the overall record of Bud Selig’s reign as Commissioner have consistently pointed out that he has overseen a long period of relative stability in labor relations. In many minds, the labor relations peace alone is more important than his failures (including, perhaps most damning, the way he and the rest of the league turned a blind eye to PED use in the first place).
It would be ironic if one of his last, and most dramatic, actions as Commissioner turns out to undo whatever previous good he may have done in the labor relations area.
Anyway, you can tell me you hate Alex Rodriguez; or you can tell me you hate Tony Bosch; or you can tell me you hate the lawyers involved; or you can tell me you hate the Yankees; or you can tell me you hate Bud Selig
I’ll agree with you.