Well, I said I’d be back if there was any breaking news. And I have to be honest, this is kind of the news I was expecting to break sometime this week. Though on a Saturday was not expected.
The arbitrator in the Alex Rodriguez suspension appeal case has finally come back with a ruling. To recap the history: Rodriguez was named in the Biogenesis case last January as one of the players linked in some way to the South Florida “anti-aging” clinic, allegedly distributing PEDs to professional athletes, a violation of their CBA (basic agreement) with MLB and the MLBPA (players’ association). Initially, Rodriguez was sentenced to a 211 game suspension, which he appealed and allowed him to continue playing the 2013 season. So Rodriguez and his lawyers and MLB’s lawyers convened on the MLB headquarters in New York, rather contentiously at times, and everyone has been waiting on the arbitrator’s decision since Thanksgiving.
Today, the arbitrator made his decision. The lucky number is 162.
That’s right, Rodriguez is suspended for the entire 2014 season, nothing more, nothing less. That is a 50 game reduction in sentencing, but 97 (and 112) games over the other players suspended in the same case. Rodriguez’s team has made it clear that anything short of exoneration would be followed up by a federal appeal. The Union (MLBPA), while in disagreement with the decision of the arbitrator, is ultimately respecting it as final.
The conversation now has turned to how Spring Training will turn out. Technically, the suspension is specific to regular season games, and according to his Facebook, Rodriguez has every plan to show up and even playing should the call arise this Spring. But don’t count out some tight rule and legal scrutiny from MLB and other entities to see if that’s even legal.
Though, outside of all the legal factors, I do understand Rodriguez’s push to continue playing. He will be 39 in July, and he’s well-aware his playing days as an elite athlete are numbered. And any time off from a regular schedule of playing at that level can be detrimental in the long run. Athletes always know they will have a short career because the body can’t function at a high level forever. So the possibility of dealing with an entire year off must be devastating at this point in his career.
We all know this case is far from over, but for now, we have the ruling and a number — 162. It will be an interesting case-study years from now to see how this all lands and works itself out, as these things usually do with time.
In the mean time, while I’m guessing Cashman & Co. are now scurrying around trying to figure out 3rd base options for 2014, other roster changes have been finalized. Yesterday, the Yankees designated outfielder Vernon Wells for assignment, signing relief pitcher Matt Thorton to a 2-year deal. Thorton has spent most of his 10 year career with the White Sox, though ended up in Boston for part of this last season on a trade. Wells became the 6th man in the over-crowded outfield with recent pinstripe signings; he is also the youngest of the three extra guys (Ichiro, Soriano, and Wells), so he should be able to get picked up somewhere pretty quickly. Wells was quickly becoming one of the favorites of the fans and the players in Yankee Stadium, so he will be missed.
So much for a light weekend… and there’s still so much time between now and Spring Training. But isn’t that the exciting part of baseball — never knowing what’s going to happen and when? Well, maybe that’s the exciting part about life in general, if I really think about it. In one moment, one play, one look, everything changes and suddenly that outcome you weren’t expecting is staring at you right in the face. So what are you going to do about it?