- Andrew Marchand, ESPN Senior Writer
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NEW YORK -- The ceaseless back-and-forth between Major League Baseball's top officials and Alex Rodriguez continued on the first day of baseball's offseason with more verbal brushbacks.
Rob Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer and the favorite to be the next commissioner, called Rodriguez's career "sad" and "tarnished."
Responding to a Thursday morning statement released by Rodriguez that criticized commissioner Bud Selig and stated Rodriguez was trying to protect "the interests of the next 18-year-old coming into the league," Manfred said Rodriguez's side is engaging in gross misconduct.
"This latest, sad chapter in Mr. Rodriguez's tarnished career is yet another example of this player trying to avoid taking responsibility for his poor choices," Manfred said. "Given the disappointing acts that Mr. Rodriguez has repeatedly made throughout his career, his expressed concern for young people rings very hollow. Mr. Rodriguez's use of PEDs was longer and more pervasive than any other player, and when this process is complete, the facts will prove it is Mr. Rodriguez and his representatives who have engaged in ongoing, gross misconduct."
Joe Tacopina, Rodriguez's lead attorney, called for Manfred's ouster from the case.
"Rob Manfred has gone so far over the line with his latest slanderous attack against Alex (which presumably was approved by Commissioner Selig) that we demand the other two arbitration panel members immediately remove Manfred from the panel hearing Alex's appeal," Tacopina said in a statement. "Indeed, we do not see how he can continue to hold any position of responsibility within Major League Baseball. But we will leave that to the conscience and judgment of the owners within the league."
Just over an hour later, MLB issued a statement in response to Tacopina's criticism through spokesperson Pat Courtney.
"Mr. Tacopina's latest rant is so delusional it doesn't warrant a response," the statement said. "The fact that Mr. Tacopina has now asked for two of the three panel members to be recused tells you everything you need to know."
On Thursday morning, Rodriguez released a statement to combat comments made by Selig during the World Series. The commissioner said he fully supported the manner in which the investigation has been conducted.
Rodriguez's side is suing Selig and MLB, alleging several instances of misconduct as the league worked to suspend Rodriguez for 211 games for violating the joint drug agreement and the collective bargaining agreement.
"It is sad that Commissioner Selig once again is turning a blind eye, knowing that crimes are being committed under his regime," Rodriguez said. "I have 100 percent faith in my legal team. To be sure, this fight is necessary to protect me, but it also serves the interests of the next 18-year-old coming into the league, to be sure he doesn't step into the house of horrors that I am being forced to walk through."
While the bickering never stops, Rodriguez's appeal of his suspension is on hiatus until Nov. 18. At that time, Rodriguez's side will present its defense. After it concludes, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz is expected to rule within 25 days, meaning that a decision likely won't be known until sometime in December, at the earliest.
On Nov. 7 in a Manhattan court, the first conference of Rodriguez's lawsuit will be heard. MLB is attempting to get the suit thrown out. If there is a trial, it would not begin until sometime next year, at the earliest.
2dKevin Van Valkenburg