NEW YORK -- Major League Baseball chief operating officer Rob Manfred described a New York senator and other elected officials as "ill-informed" after a news conference in which the politicians said the league is being "discriminatory" and that commissioner Bud Selig should step down immediately in the aftermath of Alex Rodriguez's 211-game suspension.
"These sorts of comments come from people that are obviously ill-informed," Manfred told ESPNNewYork.com on Thursday night.
At a news conference held outside MLB's Park Avenue offices, where Rodriguez's appeal completed its seventh day Thursday, New York state Sen. Ruben Diaz, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, Assemblywoman Gabriela Rosa and Hispanics Across America president Fernando Mateo went on the offensive against Selig and Yankees president Randy Levine.
"I'm here in support of Alex Rodriguez and what Fernando Mateo is trying to do, to be sure a member of our community gets justice," said Diaz, who also is a minister and president of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization. "I think that 211 games is unprecedented, unfair, unjust. And I think it's discriminatory, too. I think that other people who have done worse have gotten less punishment."
Manfred testified in the case Thursday. He declined to go into any details about the confidential hearing but pointed out there would be no way for the elected officials to know the particulars of MLB's case.
"Unless Mr. Rodriguez and his representatives have violated the confidentiality of the joint drug agreement, there is no way these individuals could know what wrongs have been allegedly committed," said Manfred, a favorite to replace Selig as the next commissioner. "If they don't know what wrongs have been committed, I don't know how they can make a judgment on whether the punishment was unfair or unjust."
Each day of the hearing, Rodriguez has arrived to a crowd of supporters with anti-MLB and anti-Yankees signs. Fans have chanted his name, and Rodriguez has stopped to sign autographs.
"What I make of it is an attempt to distract from the fundamental question of whether Mr. Rodriguez violated the joint drug agreement by using performance-enhancing drugs," Manfred said.
Manfred declined comment when asked specifically whether he thought Rodriguez's side had anything to do with the protests. Rodriguez and people close to him have denied they have coordinated with HAA. Manfred said MLB has not heard from Mateo.
"We have had absolutely no dialogue with these people, and believe me, Mr. Mateo knows how to get ahold of Major League Baseball," Manfred said.
HAA said they purchased an ad in Friday's New York Times depicting Selig as Public Enemy No. 1 and calling for justice for Rodriguez.
Rodriguez did not speak to reporters Thursday. The case will resume Friday and then recess until November. When it finally concludes, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will have 25 days to come to a verdict. Rodriguez, MLB and the Yankees might not find out the decision until December.
Espaillat, who said he is a Yankees fan and grew up within walking distance of Yankee Stadium, called for Selig's resignation. He said the commissioner should be held fully responsible for the PED problems within baseball. Selig is retiring after 2014.
"Major League Baseball has not done a good job at policing the steroid crisis, and it has festered under Bud Selig," Espaillat said. "He should step down immediately. Today. Right now. We shouldn't allow him to just exit in so-called glory and retire. There is an asterisk next to Bud Selig's name forever."
Manfred responded: "People who are well-informed about the progress in baseball that has been made on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs are laudatory of commissioner Selig's efforts in this regard."
Mateo took shots at Levine for allegedly wanting out of the 10-year, $275 million contract Rodriguez signed prior to the 2008 season. Rodriguez still has four years on that deal. Diaz said he was not there to criticize Levine, and Espaillat said he did not believe Levine was the problem. Diaz, when asked, said he did not agree with a sign being displayed that read, "Randy Levine is the devil."
"Shame on Randy Levine for trying to renege on [Rodriguez's] contract. A contract that he signed. I consider it not very intelligent to give a 10-year contract to a 33-year-old aging ballplayer knowing at 43 the guy isn't going to see the balls anymore," Mateo said. "Now, at 38, he wants him out of the game so the Yankees can save $100 million and he can get a big bonus. That's unacceptable as well."
Mateo has offered no proof behind the bonus allegation.
Mateo and the officials said they wanted to make sure Rodriguez receives a fair hearing and isn't unfairly punished.
"If [Rodriguez] is found guilty, we're not looking for them to do nothing," Mateo said. "What we want them to do is treat him fairly like they've treated all the other ballplayers during the reign of Bud Selig."
Manfred responded: "There is a certain irony in people complaining about our efforts in drug enforcements on the one hand, saying they are too weak, and protesting a drug discipline."
Meanwhile, the first conference for Rodriguez's lawsuit against MLB and Selig has been moved from next Thursday to Nov. 7 in Manhattan's U.S. District Court. The suit is separate from the appeal and will have no bearing on the suspension decision.