So … after weeks upon weeks of speculation, Major League Baseball finally announced its suspension of Alex Rodriguez for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic Miami Monday afternoon. A dozen or so other players were also handed bans, including All-Stars Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta and Everth Cabrera, but they’re not A-Rod, so basically who cares, right?
In typical Bud Selig fashion, the league appeared to have Rodriguez dead to rights due to his connection with Anthony Bosch even without a failed PED test, yet baseball somehow found a way to botch this since he’ll be starting at third base for the Yankees tonight against the White Sox since he’s expected to appeal. Sure, Selig got his headlines and weeks of bad press for Rodriguez, but as of Monday it’s hard to say what MLB even accomplished? Some over-the-top New York Post back pages? Keeping the PED troll firmly locked on the leg of the league?
Selig probably would have been better served doing a victory lap after getting Ryan Braun to accept a season-long suspension last month and called it a day. Baseball could have waited to dole out the rest of the penalties in the offseason and worked with the Player’s Union — which has shifted its position dramatically away from protecting potential PED users — in the winter to adopt a harsher penalty for first-time offenders. If they’re worried about integrity it’s already been compromised: Peralta played 104 games for the first-place Tigers and made the All-Star team.
Instead baseball ends up with Rodriguez appealing his 211-game suspension, allowing the whole Biogenesis mess to keep lingering … and lingering … and lingering some more — up to 45 days for arbitrator Fredric Horowitz to hear the case and then make his ruling. Closure still looks distant on the horizon since Rodriguez appears ready to fight tooth-and-nail for the shortest suspension in order to collect the most possible money owed to him by the Yankees (which sits in the $100 million range through 2017). Right now nobody is happy with the outcome except for Rodriguez, who gets to cash a couple hefty game checks will he waits to meet with Horowitz once his appeal is officially filed.
Baseball spent a solid month saber-rattling how it would suspend Rodriguez for life or multiple season and lo and behold he’s still penciled in to play third base tonight at U.S. Cellular Field. He’ll still have a slight chance to pass Willie Mays on the all-time home run list before his appeal is settled. Worst of all, Rodriguez will directly impact the American League Wild Card race. As a cherry on top of this turd sundae, baseball tried to cast Rodriguez as Public Enemy No. 1 and by the time they handed out the suspension most of the public was so sick-and-tired of hearing about it, he became a somewhat more sympathetic figure for the way he was singled-out. (Hey, you can’t blame A-Rod for wanting to appeal, it is within his rights after all. The MLBPA has his back here.)
Performance enhancing drugs, despite baseball’s best efforts, are likely still in baseball regardless of the penalties stemming from the Biogenesis investigation. The drug cheats will always figure out a way to stay one step ahead of the testing.
Once again this whole scenario showed how baseball continues to shoot itself in the foot with PEDs. The louder and harder it tries to stamp them out of the game, the more it sullies the game’s reputation. The national conversation right now isn’t about the first-place Pirates or Chris Davis’ 40 home runs or the Braves 10-game winning streak. Instead when baseball is on “SportsCenter” the topic is Rodriguez and Biogenesis, blasted at the top of the rundown graphic — it keeps the association that baseball is the only sport blighted with PEDs alive.
Why not, in the future, take the NFL route? When a player gets suspended for PEDS in the NFL — 16 and counting this calendar year — move on it with it. Yes, Rodriguez represents some sort of steroid ‘White Whale’ for Selig, but even if the league were to have suspended him for life, do you honestly think it would work as a deterrent for other players thinking about taking something in hopes it might help him land a multi-million dollar contract? Melky Cabrera got $16 million from the Blue Jays over the winter after his suspension in 2012.
By now everyone knows Selig retroactively wants to get tough on steroids, if only so his legacy as commissioner isn’t that he looked the other way while players juiced in the 1990s and into the 2000s. How to get tough? Zap guys with bans when nobody sees it coming. Have a failed test — sans FedEx delivery guys screwing up the chain of custody — make an airtight case that will hold up in arbitration. Work hand-in-hand with the Union and listen to the players who want a clean game so they can help self-police PED cheats out of their locker room.
Instead baseball decided to go down a path where it relied on the information of a disgraced physician, Bosch, to go after one of the sport’s biggest stars of the last two decades. The result still leaves the league’s power to police in the hands of an arbitrator.
Wherever you stand, this month of Rodriguez suspension talk all feels like a colossal waste of time and effort. Thankfully our tax dollars weren’t directly used to help pay for this mess.
Related: MLB Finished Negotiating with A-Rod, He Now Faces Minimum 214-Game Suspension According to Report
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