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.

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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 Suspension: Now What?

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

We were waiting months for Saturday’s announcement. Alex Rodriguez was officially suspended for the entire 2014 season after arbitrator Fredric Horowitz upheld MLB’s original 211-game ban but reduced the terms to a mere 162 games. A-Rod has also been suspended for the postseason, should the Yankees qualify. He’s out of the year, officially.

Even though we all kinda knew Alex was going to be suspended when it was all said and done, we really didn’t know how long he would sidelined. Fifty games? A hundred? The full season? Now we know it will be the entire year and, more importantly, now the Yankees know. They finally have payroll and roster clarity and can move forward with the rest of the offseason. Let’s break down how A-Rod’s suspension impacts the team.

40-Man Roster Implications
This is easiest, so let’s get it out of the way first. Rodriguez will be on the restricted list during the suspension, meaning he does not count against the 40-man roster even though he is technically still on it. It’s similar to the 60-day DL. That now open 40-man spot will go to Brian Roberts once his one-year contract is made official, which Joel Sherman says has happened. The team hasn’t announced anything yet though.

Can He Play Elsewhere?
Not without the Yankees’ permission. A-Rod is still under contract with the Yankees and they’d have to give him the okay to play in an independent league or overseas. (Korea and Japan honor MLB suspensions, so they aren’t an option anyway.) There is no reason for the Yankees to give him permission to play elsewhere either. They still owe him a boatload of money and don’t want some independent league coach or trainer working with him. The team has to protect its investment, basically.

Payroll Implications
Even though he has been suspended for the full year, A-Rod will still count as $3,155,737.70 against the luxury tax according to Sherman. His actual take home salary will be a little south of that (roughly $2.9M) since his 2014 salary ($25M) is lower than his contract’s luxury tax hit ($27.5M). Rodriguez was suspended 162 games but the regular season actually runs 183 days, so, in essence, the team is still financially responsible for their off-days.

Even with A-Rod almost completely off the books, the Yankees are right up against the $189M luxury tax threshold. I don’t see how they can get under without going cheap in the rotation and bullpen while shedding some salary (Brett Gardner?). They did come into about $22M of extra “real money” thanks to the suspension, money that figures to go to the pitching staff. Masahiro Tanaka is the obvious target but that money could lead to more bullpen help as well. Heck, maybe they’ll add someone like Ubaldo Jimenez even if they do sign Tanaka. That’d be neat. Don’t think it’ll happen though. Point is, the suspension saves the Yankees a bunch of cash, both real dollars and dollars against the luxury tax.

Injunction Junction, Some More Dysfunction
Last week we heard Alex could take the case to a federal judge and seek an injuction if his camp felt the ruling was too harsh, something he reiterated in his statement on Saturday:

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.

This morning, A-Rod’s lawyer Joe Tacopina confirmed they will file the suit seeking the injunction today.

There are a shocking number of lawyers writing about baseball these days (including Ben) and from what they’ve all said, A-Rod’s camp is going to have a very difficult time getting a federal judge to look at this case. They tend to steer clear of collectively bargained matters unless there is gross misconduct or something like that. Rodriguez will have to show Horowitz was essentially working with MLB, as Wendy Thurm explained a few weeks ago.

The only thing I know for sure at this point is that if the case goes to federal court and a judge issues an injunction against the suspension, A-Rod will be allowed to play, just as he was allowed to play during his appeal late last year. It is a very unlikely outcome but not completely impossible.

Spring Training
Rodriguez confirmed through spokesman Ron Berkowitz that he plans to attend Spring Training in a few weeks, which is his right. The Joint Drug Agreement says suspended players are allowed to participate in camp and even play exhibition games. The Yankees and MLB are going to get together sometime soon to figure out a way to prevent this from happening, according to Andrew Marchand. I don’t know how likely that is; the Collective Bargaining Agreement and JDA are pretty airtight. If they keep him out against the rules, Rodriguez could file a grievance, which would add legitimacy to his whole “MLB and the Yankees are conspiring to get me out of the game” allegation.

(Gregory Shamus/Getty)
(Gregory Shamus/Getty)

If push comes to shove and A-Rod reports to Spring Training next month, Marchand says the Yankees can simply assign him to minor league camp in an effort to minimize the circus and keep him away from the big leaguers. The could even go as far as instructing their coaches to ignore him — to not hit him grounders during infield practice or throw him batting practice. They could also keep him out of Grapefruit League games by arguing he will not play this year and they need the games for the players on the roster to prepare. One thing I do know about Alex is that he truly loves playing baseball and Spring Training gives him a chance to get on the field. I’m curious to see how this how situation plays out in the coming weeks.

Why Don’t They Just Release Him?
I don’t think A-Rod will ever play another game. Not in the big leagues and certainly not for the Yankees. That’s just my opinion. I think the team will cut ties with him at some point, likely next winter after his suspension is over. It’ll be a Barry Bonds situation — plenty of teams will need help at third base in 2015 but no one will bother to give him a chance because his production isn’t worth the distraction. Remember, Bonds was way better during his final year (157 wRC+) than A-Rod was last year (113 wRC+).

So, if that is the case, why don’t the Yankees simply release Rodriguez now? They would still reap the payroll benefits of his suspension and they wouldn’t have to deal with the potential Spring Training headache. I suppose there are several answers to this question but the easiest is that A-Rod could still do something in 2014 that gives the team a way out of all or part of the remainder of his contract. Maybe he tears an ACL playing basketball like Aaron Boone, allowing the team to void his contract. Maybe he fails a drug test and gets another suspension. Maybe he gets hurt during a workout and the team can recoup some salary through insurance. All sorts of stuff can happen between now and next year that helps the Yankees.

Eating $61M — Rodriguez’s total salary from 2015-17 — is a tough pill to swallow but it’s tough to see an alternative at this point. He will be almost 40 years old when his suspension is over and he will have missed nearly two full years. Coming back from that might be damn near impossible. Plus the team obviously wants nothing to do with him. They’d like him to just go away. It’s not my money, but it seems inevitable that the Yankees will release A-Rod, eat the remainder of his contract, and walk away from the distraction at some point. I’ll be surprised if he ever plays another game, especially in pinstripes.

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.

NYDN: A-Rod could seek injunction; would likely accept 65-game ban

Via NYDN: Alex Rodriguez could ask a judge for an injunction if he feels arbitrator Frederic Horowitz hands down an unfair ruling. He is unlikely to get one, as Wendy Thurm explained in November, but it is something he could pursue as part of his scorch the Earth legal battle with MLB. “The papers are all ready. They are just waiting for the announcement,” said one of the Daily News’ sources.

Meanwhile, the Daily News says Rodriguez would likely accept a 65-game (or less) ban without a fight. The legal fees to combat a suspension of that size would be greater than the salary he stands to lose, they say. Ryan Braun received 65 games and both he and A-Rod were considered MLB’s top targets as part of this whole Biogenesis investigation. Horowitz could hand down his ruling any day now, and the sooner that happens, the better. Let’s get this show on the road already.