“I’m sure there’s been mistakes made along the way,” Alex Rodriguez said in a Monday news conference. “We’re here now. I’m a human being.”
Agreed. Alex Rodriguez is a human being.
Beyond that, opinions on him differ. Is he merely a user of performance-enhancing drugs, or is he also a liar? Did he encourage other players to patronize the now defunct clinic called Biogenesis? Should Rodriguez have been suspended for the remainder of this season and all of next season? Was appealing that suspension a good idea? And how much do baseball fans in New York care?
“When he returned to the team on Monday night this week in Chicago, the YES Network, which … is partly owned by the Yankees and carries their games, had their highest rating of the season,” said Danny Knobler, national baseball writer for CBSSports.com.
The obvious fan interest in the return of Rodriguez notwithstanding, Knobler thinks it wasn’t well received by those who sign A-Rod’s paychecks.
“I think some of the people in the Yankees’ front office had dreams that maybe A-Rod could be suspended for life,” he said.
A life-time suspension would have saved the Yankees nearly $100 million, which they could have spent acquiring other players without worrying about baseball’s luxury tax.
But Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games, and he is playing and getting paid, because he appealed that suspension. Michael McCann, who directs the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire and covers legal issues for SI.com, feels Major League Baseball may have overreached.
“They likely have grounds to suspend him 100 games,” he said. “That’s the first time offense under the joint drug agreement for being connected to steroids, performance-enhancing drugs, and other prohibited substances. Going from 100 to 211, though, is where Rodriguez has a strong case. He can say, ‘I don’t see 211 games in the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement, or any document. It looks as if this number is out of thin air,’ he’ll argue.”
So what happens next? There has been speculation that Major League Baseball and Rodriguez will come to some compromise agreement before the case reaches an arbitrator in the fall, though McCann feels that’s unlikely. Perhaps Rodriguez will sue MLB. Maybe he’d win, but maybe the discovery process would produce evidence that would open him up to criminal charges.
Faced with certain uncertainty about the eventual outcome it seemed reasonable to ask McCann if there was a precedent that might offer guidance. He brought up the case of former Yankee Steve Howe, who was suspended for life after multiple drug infractions.
“Well, he went to arbitration, and he largely won,” McCann said. “His penalty was reduced to about 119 days rather than a lifetime suspension. And the arbitrator in that case, George Nicolau, said, ‘Look, the penalty has to match the crime.’”
Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez, recently recovered from hip surgery, continues to play baseball for the Yankees. And in Florida, Rich Hofman, the man who coached Rodriguez when he was in high school at Miami’s Westminster Christian Academy, remembers when he could just cheer for his former player and regrets the way things have changed.
“I never felt like anything was going on,” Hofman said. “I just thought that’s how good he was, and I don’t know if, when, how, or how much it’s helped. I just had no idea. You don’t want to see anybody that’s been like a second son to you run into problems and make poor decisions.”