New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 season, as an independent arbitrator upheld the majority of a 211-game suspension Major League Baseball assessed him in August.
Saturday's ruling by Fredric Horowitz will cost Rodriguez $25 million in salary and casts considerable doubt over the All-Star's career. Rodriguez will turn 40 during the 2015 season.
Rodriguez, who struck a defiant tone during the yearlong Biogenesis scandal, said in a statement released Saturday morning that he will pursue appealing the ruling in federal court:
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one," he said. "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."
Post by USA TODAY Sports.
Horowitz's ruling came after he presided over a dozen sessions involving MLB, Rodriguez and the slugger's legal team. The ruling concludes a saga that began in January 2013 when Rodriguez's name emerged with a dozen others in a Miami New Times report on Biogenesis, at that point an obscure wellness clinic in a Coral Gables, Fla. strip mall.
In all, the Biogenesis scandal netted 13 suspensions, the most notable being Rodriguez's yearlong ban and the 65-game, season-ending suspension accepted by Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, like Rodriguez a former MVP.
A dozen players accepted 50-game suspensions on Aug. 5, the same day baseball handed down its 211-game suspension of Rodriguez. But A-Rod was the lone player to appeal. He had offseason hip surgery and made his season debut the same day his suspension was assessed, batting .244 with seven home runs and a .771 OPS the remainder of the season.
He finished the year with 654 career home runs, leaving him six shy of tying WIllie Mays for fourth on the all-time list; that milestone will trigger a $6 million bonus.
From the outset, it was clear Rodriguez had the will - and the financial might - to fight the suspension.
Rodriguez denied any involvement with the clinic or its director, Anthony Bosch, releasing a statement that insisted "Rodriguez was not Mr. Bosch's patient, he was never treated by him and he was never advised by him. The purported documents referenced in the story - at least as they relate to Alex Rodriguez - are not legitimate."
But as documents connected to the clinic continued to surface in news media - one tying 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun to Bosch - Major League Baseball made it increasingly clear that its investigation of implicated players would be thorough.
So began a saga in which MLB's investigative team and Rodriguez - with the financial might of a $275 million contract - engaged in cloak-and-dagger tactics to glean information on the other and, perhaps most important, obtain potentially incriminating documents.
In October, Rodriguez and his legal team filed suit against Selig and baseball, alleging "tortious interference" and claiming that its lead investigator, Dan Mullin, paid witnesses $150,000 for documents and "engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a witness whom he himself interviewed about the Biogenesis matter."
By then, Rodriguez's 2013 season was over; that he played at all was testament to his willingness to fight, wielding the legal might that a player of his stature has at his disposal.
Hip surgery in January - two weeks before the first Miami New Times Biogenesis report - sidelined Rodriguez through the All-Star break. A quadriceps injury he suffered during a late July rehab assignment ensured that his game readiness would coincide just as MLB was ready to levy penalties against the 13 players who remained in the Biogenesis crosshairs.
In July, Braun accepted a 65-game, season-ending suspension, an act that seemed to lend credibility to Bosch and the documents MLB obtained. Finally, on Aug. 5, baseball suspended 13 more players - 12 for 50 games, and Rodriguez for 211 games.
In imposing an unprecedented penalty on A-Rod, MLB cited his alleged "use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years ... 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."
As anticipated, Rodriguez appealed the suspension and began his 2013 season. It was an unremarkable campaign - that was more notable for Rodriguez's camp sniping at the Yankees and Major League Baseball for their apparent zeal in ensuring he go down.
Eventually, the rancor subsided, and Rodriguez's arbitration hearing was little more than background noise while baseball's October playoff drama unfolded without the Yankees.
Testimony before Horowitz finally concluded Nov. 22, one day after Rodriguez stormed out when the arbitrator ruled Selig did not have to testify.
Rodriguez later called the process "a farce." In its statement Saturday, Major League Baseball termed it due process at work.
"For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights," MLB said in its statement.
"While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game."
First Coast News