While the Yankees knew they would be without their starting third baseman until mid May, the team received a bombshell just minutes ago when baseball commissioner Bud Selig announced a 50-game suspension for A-Rod this morning.
Citing his power to protect the best interests of baseball, Selig took the unprecedented step of suspending a player for failing a drug test before punishment measures were in place. The MLB Players Association plans to appeal the ruling.
“These players who use performance-enhancing substances offend all of us who care for the game, and I will not tolerate their actions,” Selig said during an early-morning conference call with reporters. “What Alex did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation. There is no valid excuse for using such substances, and those who use them have shamed the game.”
Selig’s decision came after nearly two months of soul searching and investigation. In February, Sports Illustrated’s Selena Roberts broke the news that A-Rod was one of 104 players on a supposedly anonymous list from 2003 of those who failed a drug test. A-Rod, who a year ago had denied ever taking PEDs, came clean in a series of interviews with Peter Gammons and Michael Kay and in a press conference in Tampa.
Meanwhile, a few weeks later, as the steroid fallout dissipated, another A-Rod story popped up. The Yanks’ clean-up hitter had to go under the knife for a torn labrum and was originally set to miss the first six weeks of the schedule. During A-Rod’s rehab in Colorado, though, Selig decided enough was enough. He didn’t want to hear about the “loosey-goosey” steroid era anymore and determined that a 50-game suspension for A-Rod would send a message to those still trying to evade drug tests.
While Gene Orza and his team at the Players Association are busy trying to figure out how to overturn this suspension, baseball insiders are worried about the labor unrest this move may generate. While popular with a media long critical of steroid uses, the PA believes that Bud Selig has overstepped his bounds as commission and has violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are left with Cody Ransom at third base until seemingly the end of June now. Ransom, 33, has never gotten more than 78 plate appearances in a single big league season and remains untested. While the Yanks were prepared to use him until May to fill a hole, the reality of a half of season without A-Rod may force them to package Melky Cabrera and Ian Kennedy in a deal for a third baseman.
With this revelation, 2009 becomes the third year in a row in which big news happened in Yankeeland. Last year, the team revealed that Kei Igawa would join the rotation due to an Andy Pettitte injury. In 2007, Roger Clemens announced his return to the Bronx just days before Carl Pavano was set to take the ball for Opening Day. Ironically enough, only the former half of that sentence was an April Fools joke then just as this is today.