On Monday afternoon, Major League Baseball handed out its harshest penalties yet to 13 players found to be using performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs for short. At the center of the controversy is Yankees third baseman and former golden boy of Major League Baseball, Alex Rodriguez, A-Rod for short. Of the players, he was slapped down with the harshest penalty, a 211-game suspension which is an unprecedented amount of time for violating the league’s drug policy. The 211-games, the longest non-lifetime suspension from baseball, is really only a worse-case scenario for Rodriguez, who is appealing the ruling. An arbiter will decide whether or not the penalty is justified and will have the ability to reduce but not add to A-Rod’s time away from the game.
To be clear, Major League Baseball has made a point of saying it is making an example out of Rodriguez, claiming his suspension is so severe because of the way he has gone about trying to delay and hide his use of testosterone and human-growth hormone. Over the course of several seasons, the MLB decision contends he displayed “a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner.”
The Major League Players Association, often referred to as the players’ union will defend Rodriguez in the case. Union executive director Michael Weiner said in a media teleconference.”What I think they’re doing inappropriate is imposing a penalty that is way too harsh. We’ve never had a 200-plus penalty on a player who may have used drugs. Among other things, I think that’s way out of line.”
Rodriguez, 38, has been in the League since for more than two decades. In 1993, he was drafted out of high school and quickly rose to prominence as a dominant player first with the Seattle Mariners, then with the Texas Rangers and finally in with the New York Yankees in 2004. He settled into his new role as third baseman for the Yankees, leading the team to three World Series titles.
Rodriguez has made a point of saying he would like to stay in Yankee pinstripes for the rest of his career. In 2007 it appeared he would do just that when he signed an unprecedented 10-year $275 million contract to stay on.
In recent years, he has been slipping. Coming off a stunningly bad October during the playoff season, Rodriguez was actually benched. He also began the 2013 season in the minors, rehabbing from a series of injuries and a hip surgery.
The Yankees have publicly contended that they both want and need Rodriguez to return to the lineup only when he is ready and able. However, rumors abounded in the beginning of the 2013 MLB season that behind closed doors, the Yankees had attempted to get Rodriguez declared unfit to play baseball. Such a move would have allowed the club to recoup some of the money they were spending on the once great slugger’s salary.
For its part, the relationship between the Steinbrenner Family, owner of the Yankees, and the Commissioner’s office cannot be overlooked. The Yankees stand to benefit monetarily from the suspension of Rodriguez. With four more seasons after this one and $86 million on his contract, the aging slugger stands to lose $34 million in salary on the suspension. However, the Yankees will still have to pay out close to $52 million left on his contract.
The line between legal and illegal use of PEDs is becoming blurred. The reality is that baseball is now governed by an aging commissioner, beginning to consider his legacy as much as anything else. 79-year-old Commissioner Bud Selig is attempting to take a black and white approach to what is becoming an increasingly complicat
ed question about what actually constitutes cheating.
Still haunted by the dark days of the 1990s when officials were called to testify before Congress on the issue of PEDs in baseball, 79 year-old Selig may finally be realizing with Rodriguez that there are no easy answers.