Alex Rodriguez is a sad, desperate man, and sad, desperate men do sad, desperate things like blame their sad, desperate circumstances on a beloved, deceased man. Of the many layers of pathetic A-Rod has peeled back in trying to excuse his own wretched choices, never had he spoken ill of the dead, not until Monday when his failing defense found a new nadir.
Smack dab in the middle of the lawsuit he filed against Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to overturn his suspension for all of 2014 came the attack on Michael Weiner, the late leader of the union and inarguably the most respected person in baseball before cancer took his life in November. Though admiration alone does not a make a good man, nobody inside the union or out ever questioned Weiner's virtue or willingness to fight for players. He argued for those who flouted the doping rules to which they had agreed. He helped Ryan Braun escape unscathed from a positive test. Even Alex Rodriguez, a liar, a manipulator, a narcissist, everything Weiner wasn't, would still receive his best effort because he was part of a union, and a union's strength goes south to north.
Ever scraping the bottom, Rodriguez in his lawsuit said Weiner "irreparably corrupted the arbitration process," blaming benign comments that in truth bore no effect on the private arbitration case or the public's view of it. If anything, Weiner's suggestion that Rodriguez might consider a plea bargain dovetailed with his handling of the other 13 players pinched in the Biogenesis scandal and with facts made public in the lawsuit for the first time Monday.
Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz's decision, stunning in its complete rejection of Rodriguez's arguments and damning in details about the systematic doping scheme Tony Bosch devised for A-Rod, was but another moment in a charade that from the beginning has barreled to this inevitability: a federal court case. Once MLB coerced Bosch into talking, Rodriguez's legal team started down a curious path that reeked of desperation. Instead of arguing the facts of Rodriguez's doping, of explaining the 53 phone calls and 556 texts in 2012 alone, they manufactured nits at which they picked relentlessly.
Some ring true and give Rodriguez the sliver of hope that a district court judge will ignore the binding arbitration and take the case. MLB fired its last arbitrator for the Braun decision, and it wielded that same power in this case, which Rodriguez's lawyers argued prejudiced Horowitz. Of course, the union can do the same at any time. And as much time as Rodriguez spent arguing Horowitz's bias, he did reduce Rodriguez's suspension from 211 games to 162.
For the first 42 pages of the brief, Rodriguez's lawyers tilt at windmills, their creativity attempting to muddle the case's ugly truths. Much of the bellyaching boils down to the massive leaks sprung throughout the arbitration, which would represent legitimate prejudice if the moral high ground on which they stand wasn't a millimeter-thick layer of ice. Just remember: Rodriguez went through a legion of flacks, including a P.R. person who coordinated a media campaign with tactics that included sending information during arbitration proceedings to hand-picked reporters, according to sources familiar with the leaks.
Nobody will argue that both sides did the case dirty. MLB gave $125,000 to a guy who called himself Bobby. As in, they had no idea who he was. Only that he said he had documents linking Rodriguez, Braun and a dozen others to Biogenesis. Without those or Bosch's cooperation, this case does not exist. From that perspective, the league's motivations, if not its methods, are understandable. After MLB demonized drugs and boasted of the best testing program in American sports, the existence of a wide-ranging doping program going unpunished would shatter whatever illusion the league has built of its ability to police PEDs.
Fact is, Horowitz said in his opinion, the science isn't perfect. It's why Rodriguez could pass 11 tests while regularly using Bosch's human growth hormone, testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-1. The damning evidence came in those BlackBerry messages, the ones that Rodriguez's lawyers said "bore no indicia of reliability and were illegible, out of order, and contained multiple inconsistencies." Never does the lawsuit question their authenticity. Never does the lawsuit impugn any of the evidence against Rodriguez's use. Verbal gymnastics apparently cost $1,000 an hour.
They're not buying much success, either. The arbitration hearing itself wasn't a railroading; it was a fancy bit of lawyering by MLB that dates back to 2007, when a utilityman was suspended twice for stimulant use, triggering a reaction that set the stage for Rodriguez's unprecedented suspension.
When Neifi Perez tested positive three times in a short period for the same drug, it counted as three positive tests, even if it was for the same substance. Shyam Das, the arbitrator at the time, held that each positive test was a violation subject to separate discipline. This, union sources said, infuriated the MLBPA to the point that in the next round of collective bargaining, the joint drug agreement included a provision that a player could not be penalized more than once for the same PED but could be subject to multiple penalties if one test showed testosterone and another two weeks later human chorionic gonadotropin.
From the start, MLB argued that the Neifi Perez precedent allowed the league to pursue what amounted to three separate cases against Rodriguez. Moreover, rather than the standard punishment based on rule 7(A) of the JDA, which outlines the standard 50/100/lifetime punishment, Rodriguez would be subject to rule 7(G), a catch-all standard that dealt with violations of the program outside of the typical positive test.
It's an important distinction. While much post-decision curiosity focused on the league's seeming rewriting of the JDA, the union agreed 7(G) was the proper rule to mete out discipline, lest Rodriguez be punished under 7(A) and get 50 games for HGH, 100 for testosterone and be banned for life because of IGF-1.
The broadness of 7(G)'s "just cause" standard allowed MLB to pursue the awkward 211-game penalty and for Horowitz to hand out the largest non-lifetime ban of any kind in baseball history due to "the most egregious violations of the JDA reported to date."
Even without a single positive test, MLB used 7(G) to argue Rodriguez's continuous use of PEDs more than covered the threshold of a non-analytical positive, a position Horowitz agreed with thanks to the testimony of Bosch and the messages that corroborated his testimony. It was far from a safe case. Whereas with positive drug tests and 7(A) discipline the league almost always wins, sources from both sides of the case believe enough burden and risk exist with 7(G) to prevent the league from taking the Rodriguez precedent and turning it into a new standard meant to abuse the JDA.
Not only would it ruin the begrudgingly respectful labor relationship that has kept baseball work stoppage-free going on two decades, it would apply to every case the sort of comportment – not just using PEDs and lying about it but obstructing the case – that simply has not existed before. In his final words, Horowitz smacked down Rodriguez one final time: "While the length of the suspension may be unprecedented for an MLB Player, so is the misconduct."
Which is to say little of his actions in the chaotic days since the decision. Surely the lawyers must've understood that trashing Michael Weiner would mobilize every player with an ounce of respect for his work against A-Rod. Or maybe they're still grasping for something, anything to convince the public that it wasn't entirely boneheaded to play for a Hail Mary from the get-go. At very least they know the cuddly embrace of A-Rod's soft pillow, Mike Francesa, can make up for the cold comfort coming from everywhere else.
For now the public record reflects the sort of things everyone assumed about Alex Rodriguez. That he's the sort of guy who tells his drug dealer to use the service elevator and not tell anyone your full name and delete your texts. That he somehow could manage to take MLB's awful decision to let commissioner Bud Selig and COO Rob Manfred talk on-air to "60 Minutes" and boomerang the public disdain back onto himself – within 24 hours no less. That he would show up at Michael Weiner's funeral and then assail him posthumously. That he would possess the hubris to say all of this wasn't for him but the next generation of players, then go and sue the very lifeblood of that brethren.
Now that union will hold hands with MLB and make A-Rod its common enemy. Both will file motions to dismiss, and if a judge grants those, Rodriguez could appeal to the Second Circuit court. Barring a win there, the next stop would be the Supreme Court, which would laugh Rodriguez's case right off the docket. And then Rodriguez would have no recourse. The New York Yankees will have bid him adieu, the rest of baseball shunned him because no matter how much he can produce as a near-40-year-old, it won't make up for the chaos that will accompany him.
When Alex Rodriguez’s scorched-earth campaign ceases and he skulks back to the existence he created, he'll no longer have the only thing aside from himself he ever truly loved: baseball. It will be the ultimate comeuppance: sad and desperate for a man every bit the same.
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