COMMENTARY | He may not have the support from the New York Yankees organization or its fans, but Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez does have a case for arguing that Major League Baseball's 211-game suspension is extreme.
In a press release coinciding with the news that it was suspending A-Rod for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement, Major League Baseball noted that A-Rod had acted in "a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation."
That's a bit extreme, considering that Melky Cabrera's web of deceit only resulted in a 50-game suspension while Ryan Braun, who made personal attacks against a Milwaukee urine sample collector, only received a 65-game suspension.
A-Rod did not deny using performance-enhancing drugs at his press conference this week, but he did seem intent on wanting a fair outcome to his being implicated in the Biogenesis scandal. "I'm not saying anyone is making anything up," he said. "I am saying we have a process."
In April, the New York Times reported that Team A-Rod allegedly purchasing documents from a former Biogenesis employee and hoped to destroy the incriminating records. (A-Rod's team has denied the allegations.) However, if this is the worst of his frustrating and obstructionist tactics, it hardly warrants a ban four times as long as Cabrera's and more than three times as long as Braun's.
Melky Cabrera's Web of Lies
Team Cabrera bought three Spanish language websites that sold health products and used one site to create a company that advertised a topical cream that Cabrera blamed for his testing positive for synthetic testosterone. (Apparently, Cabrera thought he could have the test overturned if he could prove that unknowingly ingested a banned substance.)
A phone number listed on one of the websites led Major League Baseball investigators to fly to the Dominican Republic, where they searched for a jar of the cream, according to the Daily News.
After meeting with the "seller" and acquiring the cream, the league sent the product to the World Anti-Doping Agency's lab in Salt Lake City, where it tested positive for testosterone. It was only afterward that Major League Baseball learned that the website was one of three bought for $10,000 by a Cabrera associate also affiliated with his agents.
Ryan Braun's Personal Attacks
Last year, Braun had a 50-game suspension overturned by an arbitrator because Dino I. Laurenzi, Jr., the man who handled Braun's positive urine sample, did not ship it the day it was taken. (MLB's drug policy states that samples are to be brought to FedEx as soon as possible.)
According to Laurenzi, on the evening the sample was taken (after Game 1 of the 2011 National League Division Series), he believed that there was no FedEx office open within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship it that day or Sunday. Rather than leave the sample in a drop box that would not be opened until the following Monday, he left the sample in his basement.
Braun could have accepted the arbitrator's ultra-technical decision and left it at that. Instead, he and Team Braun went after Laurenzi, even going so far as to insinuate that Laurenzi tainted Braun's urine.
"There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way the entire thing works, that made us very concerned and very suspicious about what could have actually happened," Braun said.
Braun never detailed the "things" he learned about Laurenzi. Rather, he and his team accused Laurenzi of framing the Brewers' biggest star as a drug cheat, and even went so far as to send Yahoo! Sports expert Jeff Passan an anonymous note about Laurenzi's job at a Wisconsin hospital.
"This means that Laurenzi would have unfettered access to lab equipment and, if he was so inclined, would provide him the necessary resources and opportunity to tamper with the test," Braun's team member wrote.
Ultimately, A-Rod's punishment may be measured against those handed down against Cabrera and Braun. Otherwise, he can rightly say that he's being singled out. Is it warranted? Perhaps, but the maligned slugger does have a case to have his suspension trimmed.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Sports & Recreation
- Major League Baseball
- Melky Cabrera
- Ryan Braun