Hal discusses A-Rod for first time since suspension

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

It has been four pretty chaotic days since Alex Rodriguez‘s record 162-game suspension was announced. Alex is suing pretty much everyone and doing his best to burn every last bridge. It’s exhausting to follow, really.

Aside from a generic statement issued following the announcement of the suspension, the Yankees have not publicly discussed the matter. At least not until Wednesday. At the quarterly owners’ meetings in Arizona, Hal Steinbrenner commented on A-Rod and his status with the team following the suspension. As you might expect, he didn’t say anything too juicy. From Ken Davidoff:

“He’s a great player,” Steinbrenner said in the Yankees’ managing general partner’s first public comments since independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from 211 games to 162 games. “I have not thought about 2015, nor am I going to right now. My focus has to be right now. But when he’s on and when he’s healthy, he’s obviously an asset. We’ll see what happens.”

“Those of you that know me, I’m pretty objective in my thinking. This is business. I’m just focusing on the team, a player. Is the player an asset to the club or not? That’s about as far as I look. I don’t get personal … When Alex Rodriguez is healthy and himself, I think most objective baseball people would say he could be an asset to a club.”

Hal didn’t exactly say they would welcome A-Rod back following the suspension but he didn’t completely take it off the table either. I don’t expect them to bring Rodriguez back in 2015 — I do think they’ll release him at some point, but what do I know — but there’s no reason for Steinbrenner to come out and announce their plans now. Especially not with lawsuits pending and all that. There’s nothing to gain.

One thing Hal did acknowledge was talking to MLB about a way to keep A-Rod away from the team during the Spring Training, or at least the intent to the talk to MLB. “We haven’t even talked about it,” he said. “Cross that bridge when we come to it kind of thing. We’re going to reach out to [Major League Baseball], get their advice obviously, but haven’t even addressed it.”

The whole Spring Training thing is fascinating to me. I want to see how they’ll keep him away or how the team will treat him during camp if there’s no way to stop him from showing up in Tampa. Either way, I don’t think it’ll be easy or pretty. None of this has been.

Details of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s ruling against A-Rod

As I mentioned earlier, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s sealed ruling in Alex Rodriguez‘s case was opened when A-Rod‘s camp filed a suit seeking an injunction earlier today. You can read the entire 77-page ruling right here (PDF link), but, if you don’t have time, here is a breakdown of the major points from my stomping grounds at CBS. The suit was filed against both MLB and the players’ union, which was necessary if they intend to show the deck was stacked against them. Here is the union’s statement on the suit. What a complete and total mess.

A-Rod’s lawyer confirms they are “requesting federal court intervention” today

During a television interview this morning (video above), Alex Rodriguez‘s lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed they are filing suit today “requesting federal court intervention to undo what’s been done in this labor arbitration.” A-Rod said he would seek an injunction in his statement following the announcement of his record 162-game suspension on Saturday.

“I don’t know [the suspension is] inevitable. I mean 162 games is inexplicable,” added Tacopina. “It’s not based on the law, it’s not based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s laid out between the union and Major League Baseball. There’s no basis for it. Everyone else got 50 games, who if you accept the fact that there was a finding of liability, that 50 games — somehow 162 is what was levied to Alex for no reason. Ryan Braun, who actually tested positive, unlike Alex, and went on a campaign to besmirch the test collector and called him an anti-Semite wound up with 65 games. That in and of itself is a basis to get us into federal court.”

From what I understand, a federal judge is unlikely to look at a case following an arbitrator’s ruling in a collectively bargained matter. As Wendy Thurm explained a few weeks ago, “Rodriguez will have to show that [arbitrator Fredric Horowitz] was so in cahoots with MLB that it led to a fraudulent or biased proceeding” in order to get the case looked at it. I don’t know what will happen next, but A-Rod’s camp is going to keep fighting.

Arbitrator upholds 162-game suspension; AROD set to sue

Barring further court action, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 season for violating MLB’s Joint Drug Argument, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has decided. Horowitz has upheld A-Rod‘s ban but has reduced MLB’s penalty from 211 games to 162 (plus any Yankee playoff games). Essentially, A-Rod was allowed to play out the 2013 part of his suspension while appealing, but the initial penalty has been upheld.

Rodriguez has issued a statement vowing to appeal the suspension in federal court, but his faces long odds as federal courts are reluctant to overturn arbitration rulings absent obvious factual issues, gross misconduct on the part of the arbitrator or if the award was based on corruption, fraud, or undue means. Even then, courts grant broad discretion to arbitration rulings, especially those that arise out of collective bargaining arrangements.

A-Rod released his statement on Facebook, and our own Mike Axisa runs down the background of the Biogenesis/A-Rod scandal in his post on CBS Sports. Here’s what Rodriguez had to say:

“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.

I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.

I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal.”

For MLB, this suspension is largely unprecedented. The JDA allows for a 50-game ban for an initial failed test, but it also grants the commissioner power to suspend a player for “just cause.” Horowitz has apparently upheld a broad grant of power in this “just cause” provision, and ARod’s suspension becomes the largest in MLB history over PED use, suspected or otherwise.

For the Yankees, this leaves a gaping hole on the left side of the infield. Already filled with old or fringe players, the infield has no third base anchor, and the remaining free agent market is weak, to say the least. (Just say no to Michael Young.) The team will get to save $25 million of A-Rod’s salary, less a $3 million signing bonus, but I’d rather see a better team on the field than Plan 189 or more money in the Steinbrenner family’s pockets. The gap his bat leaves in the lineup is significant as well, and the team is, as currently constructed, worse without A-Rod than with him.

The Players’ Association, meanwhile, issued a statement as well: “The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel’s decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez’s unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision.” They are, in effect, washing their hands of this mess and, it seems, ceding power to Bud Selig and the Commissioner’s Office. That’s a risky move.

Some fans who despised A-Rod will rejoice; others who loved him, warts and all, and loved watching him hit will not. It’s not a good day for baseball though as shady dealings and PED use remain in the headlines.

Marcus: A-Rod ruling imminent; decision appears favorable to MLB

A ruling in Alex Rodriguez‘s appeal hearing is imminent, according to Steven Marcus. It’s unclear if that means a matter of minutes or hours or another day or two. Who really knows at this point. Marcus adds that arbitrator Frederic Horowitz’s ruling appears to be favorable for MLB. I’m not exactly sure any of this is new information at this point, really.