Archive for STEROIDS!
Via Jon Heyman: Alex Rodriguez‘s camp is considering accepting a plea agreement from MLB that would keep him off the field until 2015, but they may are still seeking a more favorable deal. The league considers even a 150-game suspension to be light given their evidence. Ronald Blum hears A-Rod and the other players may be given until Monday to accept their deals, just in case you were worried this wouldn’t drag out any longer.
Meanwhile, Julie Brown reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami is now digging into Biogenesis. That could be a problem for MLB because Anthony Bosch would be unlikely to testify in front of an arbitrator (during an appeal) if he’s being investigated by the feds simply because he wouldn’t want to incriminate himself. The league promised they would put in a good word for Bosch as part of their agreement, but who knows how that far will go. Given all this talk about possibly banning A-Rod for life, I get the sense that any suspension that doesn’t keep him off the field until 2015 would be considered a loss for MLB. They backed themselves into a corner a bit.
I think we’re all sick of this Biogenesis stuff by now, but if you’re going to read one article on the subject, I recommend this one by William Rhoden.
Via Joel Sherman & Ken Davidoff: Frankie Cervelli is among the nine players who are “leaning strongly” towards taking a plea deal from MLB following the Biogenesis investigation. MLB has told the union which players will be suspended, and Ronald Blum says the announcements could be pushed back to Friday as the various parties work out the deals. That would allow first time offenders like Cervelli to serve their 50-game suspensions this year before starting 2014 with a proverbial clean slate.
MLB is still trying to get Alex Rodriguez to accept a similar plea agreement, though his suspension is expected to be much longer than 50 games because the league claims he tried to impede the investigation. The two sides have been playing what amounts to a game of chicken in recent days —
MLB officials have leaked reports indicate MLB will seek a lifetime ban for A-Rod if he doesn’t settle, and supposedly Bud Selig is prepared to bypass the Joint Drug Agreement and use the power of the commissioner’s office to ban him from baseball citing the integrity of the game. Alex’s camp has remained defiant and insists no settlement will be made. This will all end at some point, right?
Via NYDN: Commissioner Bud Selig is prepared to invoke one of the office’s most extreme privileges and ban Alex Rodriguez from baseball if the embattled Yankees does indeed pass on a plea deal to fight a Biogenesis-related suspension. Article XI, Section A1b of the Collective Bargaining Agreement allows the commissioner to ban someone to preserve the integrity of the game, basically.
If Selig were to go to that extreme, he would be bypassing both the grievance/appeals process and the Joint Drug Agreement, the only document that addresses performance-enhancing drug discipline. They’d rely on evidence showing A-Rod tried to interfere with the Biogenesis investigation, not necessarily evidence showing he purchased a banned substance. It’s pretty obvious MLB and the league is leaking this stuff in an attempt to pressure Alex, and even if Selig did invoke the rule to ban him, it would result in a monster legal battle. A-Rod would have nothing to lose at that point. Seems like a scare tactic, really.
Via Steven Marcus: No Biogenesis announcements are expected to come today. Yesterday we heard the league is planning to announce all the suspensions at the same time this week, and reportedly they are hoping to get an answer from Alex Rodriguez‘s camp about a possible plea agreement at some point today. I was getting worried this story wouldn’t drag on any longer, so needless to say, I’m relieved by this news.
At some point very soon, perhaps even today, MLB will announce the rest of the suspensions stemming from their investigation into the South Florida performance-enhancing drug hub Biogenesis. Ryan Braun was the first casualty last week, mostly because he was willing to cut a deal and not file an appeal. Other players won’t go down as easily, and among those other players is Alex Rodriguez.
Bill Madden, Teri Thompson, and Michael O’Keeffe reported yesterday that MLB either has (or will) offer A-Rod a deal that would require him to sit out the rest of this season and all of next season. If he doesn’t accept that settlement, the league will attempt to use the mountains of evidence they have apparently obtained to ban him from baseball for life. Various reports indicate Alex will not agree to any kind of settlement and instead go through the appeals process and challenge the league head-on.
As far as the Yankees are concerned, a lifetime ban would be the best case scenario. Not only would they rid themselves of a big distraction, but they would be off the hook for the remaining four years and too-many-millions left on Alex’s albatross contract. That’s the best case scenario, but the best case scenario and most realistic scenario are not the same thing more often then not. As despised as A-Rod is, the union won’t let the league end their highest paid player’s career without a failed drug test and without a fight. It sets an awful precedent. There would surely be an ugly and lengthy legal battle.
Instead, the most realistic best case scenario for the Yankees might be a 250-game suspension, which is essentially the number of games he would miss by being suspended for the rest of this year and next. However, that 250-game suspension would be best served not this year and next, but next year and the year after. That would save them a huge, huge chunk of money against the luxury tax threshold — a suspended player’s salary does not count towards the luxury tax calculation, nor do they occupy a 40-man roster spot — which would be more helpful in 2014 and beyond than it would in 2013.
By sitting out the rest of this year and next, the team would save approximately $37.1M in real dollars. That’s A-Rod’s salary plus the luxury tax hit for the rest of this season. If he sat out next year and the first 50 games of 2015, they would only save $31.5M or so, assuming they actually get under the $189M luxury tax threshold. Five and a half million bucks is a ton of money, even to a multi-billion dollar company like that the Yankees, so they’d prefer the suspension to happen as soon as possible to save the most money. The alternative would be to save $6.5M or so against the luxury tax threshold in 2015.
Here’s the thing though: the Yankees don’t get the choose. They’re just along for the ride. Since A-Rod is reportedly going to fight any suspension, it’s unlikely said 250-game would start this year. Several players are likely to appeal, meaning the process could take a while. Weeks if not months. Think of it as slowly peeling off the band-aid rather than pulling it off. Because of that, it would take something very unexpected — like, say, another quad injury — for Alex to not return to the team in 2013. Instead of saving a few extra million this year, the most likely scenario shaves cash off A-Rod’s future luxury tax hit. That’s an okay trade-off, at least in my opinion.
I truly believe the Yankees are doing all they can to delay A-Rod’s return to the team in hopes of … I don’t know. Maybe they don’t even know. I guess in hopes that he would get banned and not return to the team ever? It’s clear the two sides
don’t trust hate each other, and the club probably doesn’t want to deal with the day-in, day-out aggravation even if he improves their lineup. And improve their lineup he would; it’s hard to believe Alex would be worse that New York’s current third base situation, which is the least productive in baseball.
Unless he a) gets hurt again, b) has his appeal moves to the front of the line, or c) surprisingly decides to settle, A-Rod is going to return to the team at some point soon whether the Yankees like it or not. Under the best case scenario, they would have to begrudgingly sit through another 50 or so games of him this year, when he could help push them into a playoff spot. He could be gone for a year and a half after that, potentially even forever. It would be easier for the Bombers to financially swallow releasing A-Rod or buying him out in the middle of 2015, when the suspension would expire and he’ll be almost 40. That’s the best of an awful situation.
Via Joel Sherman & Ken Davidoff: There are strong indications MLB will announce the rest of the Biogenesis related suspensions sometime this coming week. The idea is that the first time offenders, if they decline to appeal, could serve their 50-game suspensions this season and start next year with a clean slate.
The NY Post duo says MLB is going to demand that Alex Rodriguez‘s punish far exceeds Ryan Braun’s, and it’s possible Bud Selig could push for a lifetime ban. That would surely be met with a legal battle, however. The league won’t end a player’s career without a fight. They could also seek to suspend A-Rod for the rest of this season and all of next year. Alex’s camp has met with MLB recently just to get an idea of what’s coming, but it is “unequivocally untrue” they are working on a settlement. Either way, sounds like we’ll hear something before he returns from his quad injury.
Via Bob Nightengale: Alex Rodriguez is not planning to cut a deal with MLB regarding the Biogenesis investigation. Ryan Braun accepted a settlement and has been suspended for the rest of the season. Jim Axelrod reports Alex could face a lifetime ban — I assume MLB will try to treat each piece of evidence as an “offense,” allowing them to skip over the 50 and 100-game suspensions — but that won’t happen without a massive legal battle. For the sake of self-promotion, here’s what I wrote about the situation earlier.
A while back, I wrote a post cynically entitled “MLB players should consider cheating.” The basic premise of the article was simple: the financial incentive for many players to cheat often outweighs the incentive not to (i.e. repercussions such as suspensions or tainted reputations). I used Melky Cabrera as my primary example. He basically went from being a fringy fourth outfielder on the verge of losing an MLB job to a guy who enjoyed a two-year, $16M contract after being suspended for substance abuse and despite obvious performance concerns. Moral relativism aside, I argued Melky is better off now financially than he may have ever been before had he not cheated — a point that I still stand behind.
Given all the hoopla surrounding the Biogenesis scandal, I thought this might be a convenient opportunity to revisit the subject. Has the league taken the appropriate actions for deterring banned substances? For starters, some prominent athletes like Ryan Braun are facing lengthy suspensions (65 games in Braun’s case, which is resulting in $3.25M in lost wages for the rest of the 2013 season). Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz will likely follow with similar penalties of their own along with several other notable players, though it does appear that the players will have some flexibility in the plea bargain in terms of timing, which certainly helps their wallets.
Then, of course, there’s Alex Rodriguez, who will probably face a massive suspension given the abundance of evidence apparently piled against him. Mike touched on this earlier — specifically discussing whether there’s an ideal time for A-Rod to accept his suspension. As an aside, this would also represent the first time the MLBPA has shown limited interest in defending one of its players on this particular matter, and players seem as vocal as ever about having the game cleaned up. Are a few high-profile suspensions enough to stop the majority of players from entertaining the idea of banned substances moving forward though?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I mean, we’re still talking about suspensions as the primary consequence at the end of the day. The “three-strike” rule (50 games for the first offense, 100 for the next, and a lifetime ban for the third) seems to generally still be the preferred avenue of Major League Baseball as a response. The problem with this mode of punishment though, at least as I see it, is that it doesn’t quite solve the issue. Players such as Melky can still take banned substances long enough to possibly earn a big payday without fear of much more than a 50-game suspension if it’s the first offense. Meanwhile, their respective teams are left out to dry once the penalty is issued. Unless the league makes these suspensions radically more severe (such as an immediate lifetime ban regardless of the substance or the circumstance), I just don’t see it this form of cheating ending as neatly as Selig might hope.
What if the repercussions worked a little differently though? For example, imagine if the team had the right to void a player’s contract altogether if they were caught taking PEDs? In the case of the Yankees and A-Rod, this would allow them to redirect a lot of dollars to other parts of the team that would otherwise be allocated to one player. I would have to think that a voided contract would certainly make players think twice about PEDs, though this might also be too extreme for the MLBPA’s liking.
Or, perhaps you could go another direction. Maybe a player who faces a suspension is automatically forced to accept a league minimum paycheck afterward for a couple seasons. If that player is part of some mega-contract already (like A-Rod) and the team chooses not to void the deal, the player would have to accept a few seasons at a discount. This allows the team to keep a player if they choose too, but also have a bit of a security blanket in case he doesn’t perform quite the same afterward. More importantly, the player won’t have the option of cashing in immediately upon return. Basically, he’ll have to prove himself all over again for a season or two prior to getting a big pay day. On the other hand, a player’s career won’t necessarily be over after one mistake thanks to an immediate lifetime ban.
Frankly, I don’t know if either of those options are feasible or even if they’re appropriate suggestions. I think the point here is that a different approach could potentially prove more effective if the league’s expectation is to have a clean game. I don’t think there’s a professional player on the planet who isn’t very conscious about his salary, and if the economic incentives of the game blatantly favor honest play, maybe the vast majority of players might consider it. At least, that’s the theory.
On Monday afternoon, the baseball world was rocked with the news of Ryan Braun’s season-ending suspension stemming from his connection to the South Florida performance-enhancing drug hub Biogenesis. The 2011 NL MVP effectively admitted to taking a performance-enhancer(s) without being specific — “I have made some mistakes,” he said in a statement — and agreed to a modified suspension term (65 games, officially). So, just like that, he’s done for the year.
Naturally, Alex Rodriguez is now firmly in the PED/Biogenesis cross hairs. He and Braun were said to be MLB’s top two targets given their past indiscretions — A-Rod admitted to using PEDs in 2009 and Braun successfully appealed a suspension back in 2011. That made them public enemies number one and two. One and 1A, really. Now that one is suspended, the focus shifts to 1A.
Before we can figure out if Braun’s suspension impacts A-Rod, we first have to take a second to fully understand the situation. Braun met with MLB’s investigators recently, at which point they laid out the evidence they have against him and reportedly proposed a plea agreement. Braun’s camp eventually decided to accept the settlement and skip the appeals process. The timing is crucial for the following reasons:
- Braun is hurt: He’s been dealing with a nerve problem in his right thumb/hand pretty much all year, including spending close to a month on the DL.
- The Brewers stink: Following Monday’s loss to the Padres, Milwaukee has the third worst record in baseball at 41-57. They are total non-contenders and were prepared to sell long before Braun’s suspension.
- Braun’s salary: The suspension is without pay, and Braun was scheduled to make $8.5M in 2013. That jumps to $10M next year and $12M in 2014.
By accepting the plea agreement and serving the suspension now, Braun gets to rest his thumb and lose the least amount of salary possible. The Brewers aren’t contending, so his absence won’t hurt their chances either. If he was going to be suspended — obviously he felt that was inevitable based on the evidence presented by MLB during their interview, otherwise he wouldn’t have accepted the plea deal — this was the best possible time to serve it.
With A-Rod, the circumstances are a little different. Yes, he’s hurt right now and the Yankees pretty much stink, so in that sense getting a suspension out of the way now seems like a good idea. On the other hand, Alex’s contract is front-loaded, which is not common at all. He’ll earn $28M this year, $25M next year, and $21M in 2015. By appealing and potentially pushing the suspension back to next year, A-Rod will be saving himself money because his salary will be lower.
“My understanding is he’s trying to make a deal,” said a source to Wally Matthews yesterday. A-Rod’s legal team has been reportedly mulling over a plea deal in recent days, but the nature of that deal is unknown. T.J. Quinn reported yesterday that MLB’s evidence against Alex is “far beyond” what they had for Braun, so chances are a settlement would be much more harsh. We’ve seen a 150-game suspension suggested at one point, but who really knows. The general consensus seems to be that they want to hit A-Rod with the stiffest penalty possible.
As far as the Yankees are concerned, I’m not sure if there is a “best time” for Alex to serve the suspension. Is it better to have him serve it this year — while he’s hurt and the team is a fringe contender at best — just to get it out of the way? Or is it better to wait until next year, when they would save a huge chunk of his salary towards that all-important $189M luxury tax threshold*? There’s a case to be made for both scenarios and I’ve gone back and forth between the two already.
So, to answer the question in the title, I don’t think the Braun suspension tells us anything about what A-Rod will have to deal with other than a) MLB means business, and b) it’ll be hard to discredit former Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch. That was probably Alex’s legal team’s primary plan of attack, to discredit the guy who reportedly tried to extort a six-figure payout from A-Rod before getting into bed with MLB. These are two different (but similar) cases and it’s impossible to know if the two sides will work out a plea deal or go the suspension/appeals route. Braun’s suspension was just first of what figures to many, but unfortunately it really doesn’t clarify anything as far A-Rod’s situation and its impact on the Yankees. We’re left in wait and see mode, as we have since the start of the Biogenesis investigation.
* No, A-Rod’s salary does not count against the luxury tax while he’s suspended. I don’t know how the calculation works, but I know it doesn’t count. He also won’t count against the 40-man roster, so there’s that.
Alex Rodriguez will continue his minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton when they return from their All-Star break on Thursday. He is working out with Double-A Trenton today but will not play in a game after playing each of the last four days, including three times at third base. Brian Cashman confirmed yesterday the team will not activate Alex off the DL before Monday, when his 20-day rehab clock expires.
A-Rod, 37, has gone 5-for-28 (.179) in ten rehab games so far, though the results have been better in recent games. Considering that the team’s third baseman are hitting a woeful .225/.288/.301 (61 OPS+) this season, even a hobbled and declining A-Rod figures to be a pretty nice upgrade. For what it’s worth, MLBPA head Michael Weiner told reporters yesterday that suspensions stemming from the Biogenesis investigation are not imminent, and they are likely to be served in 2014 once the appeals process is complete. It seems unlikely the Yankees will get A-Rod back next week only to lose him to suspension a few days later, but we can’t completely rule it out obviously.