A-Rod suspended, pending appeal
Alex Rodriguez was once expected to own Major League Baseball's all-time home run mark while serving as the wholesome face of the game in the post-steroid era.
Now, his face serves only as the mug shot on baseball's darkest chapter since the Black Sox scandal of 1919. He has become Public Enemy No. 1 in MLB's war on performance-enhancing drugs.
As expected, baseball on Monday suspended Rodriguez, the game's leading active home run hitter, for 211 games, beginning Thursday, for violations of its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
According to a statement released by the office of commissioner Bud Selig, "Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation.Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesMLB suspended Alex Rodriguez through the end of the 2014 season.
"The suspension, which will become effective on Thursday, Aug. 8, will cover 211 regular-season games and any 2013 postseason games in which Rodriguez otherwise would have been eligible to play.
"Under the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Rodriguez's suspension will be stayed until the completion of his appeal if Rodriguez files a grievance challenging his discipline.''
Rodriguez met the media in Chicago before returning to the Yankees' lineup against the White Sox.
"I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play major league baseball again," Rodriguez said in an opening statement.
He added: "Obviously, (I am) disappointed with the news today. What we've always fought for is the process and I think we have that and I think at some point we'll sit in front of an arbiter and we'll give our case. That's as much as I feel comfortable saying right now."
Asked if he denied using performance-enhancing drugs, he said: "We'll have a forum to discuss all of that and we'll talk about it then."
Rodriguez's lawyer, David Cornwell, issued a statement saying there would be an appeal and Cornwell would "pursue all legal remedies available to Alex."
In a uniquely A-Rodian twist, on the same day he was handed what could amount to a death sentence to a once extraordinary career, Rodriguez is expected to make his season debut with the Yankees.
As if to set him apart once more from the league he once towered over, A-Rod's suspension came down nearly 90 minutes after word leaked out that 12 other major leaguers, including Rodriguez's Yankee teammate Francisco Cervelli, had accepted 50-game bans.
That is because at the 11th hour, the Major League Baseball Players Association tried one more time to cut a deal on behalf of Rodriguez, an overture that was rebuffed by MLB. The three-day cushion enables Rodriguez to make his first appearance on the field on the same day he was potentially removed from the game forever. And since he has vowed to fight any suspension, it is expected he will file an appeal between now and Thursday that could allow him to remain on the field indefinitely.
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The collective bargaining agreement between baseball's owners and the players' association stipulates a 50-game ban for a first offender; the length of this suspension indicates baseball feels its evidence is far stronger than a mere positive drug test.
Rodriguez's appeal will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. If upheld, the suspension could effectively end the career of Rodriguez, who is 38 years old, has not played in a major league game since last October and is coming off his second major hip surgery in the past four years. However, if the suspension is upheld and Rodriguez returns in 2015, he'll still have three years left on his Yankees contract, worth $62 million.
But, as of Monday, Rodriguez will be free to resume his career with the Yankees -- and to continue collecting his $28 million salary for the 2013 season -- until his appeal is decided.
"In my mind, I have him penciled in here (Monday),'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before his team's game in San Diego on Sunday. "I'm not going to bring him up to sit him.''
That game inevitably turned out to be a spectacle, drawing attention far beyond what a meeting between a fourth-place team and a last-place team would normally attract.
Rodriguez received a hostile reception from Chicago fans, being relentlessly booed and jeered, while being subject to chants of "Steroids! Steroids!''
He had one hit in four at-bats as the struggling Yankees lost 8-1.
Selig issued a statement that did not mention Rodriguez by name, but concluded: "This case resoundingly illustrates that the strength of our Program is not limited only to testing. We continue to attack this issue on every front -- from science and research, to education and awareness, to fact-finding and investigative skills. Major League Baseball is proud of the enormous progress we have made, and we look forward to working with the players to make the penalties for violations of the Drug Program even more stringent and a stronger deterrent.
"As a social institution with enormous social responsibilities, Baseball must do everything it can to maintain integrity, fairness and a level playing field. We are committed to working together with players to reiterate that performance-enhancing drugs will not be tolerated in our game."
The Yankees, in a statement, said: "We are in full support of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We also recognize and respect the appeals process. Until the process under the Drug Program is complete, we will have no comment. We are confident that the process outlined in the Drug Program will result in the appropriate resolution of this matter. In the meantime, the Yankees remain focused on playing baseball."
The team added that "the New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez."
The MLBPA, in a statement, said: "The accepted suspensions announced today are consistent with the punishments set forth in the Joint Drug Agreement, and were arrived at only after hours of intense negotiations between the bargaining parties, the players and their representatives.
"For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.
"The Union's members have made it clear that they want a clean game. They support efforts to discipline players, and harshly, to help ensure an even playing field for all. The players support the Union's efforts to uphold the JDA while at the same time guaranteeing that players receive the due process rights and confidentiality protections granted under the agreement."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who was Rodriguez's hitting coach with the Yankees, hoped that Monday's news would help clean up baseball's problem with performance-enhancing drugs.
"Hopefully it's a step towards getting better," said Mattingly, who expressed disappointment that one of his favorite players was involved in this scandal and suspended through next season.
"I like Alex," Mattingly said. "It's disappointing. I hate seeing anybody's name involved with this. It was disappointing last year when I heard about Melky (Cabrerera). I love Melky as a player. It's disappointing when you hear anybody's name involved in this."
The long-awaited announcement of Rodriguez's suspension for having received illegal performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, a Florida-based clinic, is the climax of an investigation that began shortly after the Miami New Times published a story that included records in which the names of Rodriguez and other major league players appeared, as clients of the clinic and its founder, Anthony Bosch.
It is based on what is known as a "non-analytical positive,'' a collection of physical evidence and sworn testimony that takes the place of a positive test on a blood or urine specimen. It is believed that Bosch and Porter Fischer, a former Biogenesis employee, have provided evidence to Major League Baseball.
The suspension also caps a month-long period of suspicion, accusations and counter-accusations between Rodriguez, the Yankees and Major League Baseball, during which A-Rod accused his team and the league of conspiring to void the remainder of his 10-year, $275 million contract, which runs through 2017 and under which the team is obligated to pay him approximately another $95 million.
Between Yankees general manager Brian Cashman telling his highest-paid player to "shut the f--- up,'' to Rodriguez calling the alleged conspiracy "the pink elephant in the room,'' this saga has been one of the most bizarre and entertaining chapters in recent baseball, and Yankees, history, evoking memories of the battles among George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin and Reggie Jackson during the Bronx Zoo era of the late 1970s.
Aside from the incendiary words exchanged by both sides, baseball fans were also treated to the comical spectacle of Dr. Michael Gross, a Hackensack orthopedic surgeon, doing a media tour to declare that A-Rod was fit to play, publicly contradicting the Yankees' diagnosis of a Grade 1 quad strain, without ever having examined or even met Rodriguez.
Later, the doctor was revealed to have been fined and reprimanded by the New Jersey state attorney general's office for administrative violations involving, believe it or not, the prescribing of steroids to some patients.
But aside from the many Theater of the Absurd elements of the story, there are serious implications for A-Rod's future and his legacy.
With 647 career home runs and three Most Valuable Player awards, Rodriguez is the highest-profile player ever to be suspended for a drug violation.
The only thing remotely comparable in baseball history is the lifetime ban imposed upon Pete Rose, baseball's all-time hits leader, by former commissioner Bart Giamatti for gambling on baseball games, including some played by his own team, when he managed the Cincinnati Reds.
Although he is technically a first-time offender, Rodriguez's involvement with PEDs stretches back at least 12 years, by his own admission. After Sports Illustrated published a story in 2009 saying Rodriguez had tested positive for two banned substances -- testosterone and Primobolan -- in 2003, the year he won his first MVP, Rodriguez admitted in an interview with ESPN that he had used steroids from 2001 to 2003, citing the pressure of trying to live up to the 10-year, $252 million contract he signed with the Texas Rangers before the 2001 season.
Since steroids were not officially banned by Major League Baseball in 2003, and the test he failed was for survey purposes only, Rodriguez was not disciplined at the time of the test or after his admission.
He denied having used banned substances after being traded to the Yankees in February 2004, but in 2010 was reported by the New York Times to have received treatment from Dr. Anthony Galea, a Canadian sports-medicine physician who is currently under investigation by the FBI for distributing HGH to athletes.
Galea acknowledged treating A-Rod but said he did not prescribe him HGH or other banned substances.
Then, in January, Rodriguez's name turned up in the records of Biogenesis, a now-defunct "anti-aging'' clinic in Coral Gables, Fla., run by Anthony Bosch, a clinician who sometimes allegedly passed himself off as a doctor.
Bosch has been targeted by baseball as a distributor of HGH to players, and his father, Dr. Pedro Bosch, is also under investigation for allegedly supplying PEDs to Manny Ramirez, who received a 50-game suspension for violating baseball's drug policy in 2012.
Rodriguez has not played in a major league game since last October's postseason, a nightmarish series of games in which Rodriguez, who hit .125 (3-for-25 with 12 strikeouts) in two playoff series, was pinch-hit for three times and benched for three games, including two potential elimination games. He was also booed vociferously by the home crowds at Yankee Stadium.
In what for a time looked as if it would be his last appearance as a Yankee, Rodriguez was benched for Game 4 of the ALCS as the Yankees tried to avert a sweep by the Tigers, but did enter the game in the seventh inning as a pinch-hitter for Raul Ibanez. He flied out to center.
And in his last at-bat, Rodriguez grounded out for the second out of the ninth inning as the Yankees lost 8-1 and were eliminated.
Now, it appears A-Rod will get one more chance to play, before his chances finally run out.
Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Ryan Braun released his statement apologizing for and admitting to using PEDs.
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