So Alex Rodriguez wants to talk farces. OK. Let's talk one whopper of a farce. A famous baseball player takes performance-enhancing drugs, gets suspended, vows to fight and, instead of focusing on the legitimate merits of his case, decides to turn it into a complete clown show about cash payments and sex and whatever other buffoonery his team of private eyes excavated. And when that doesn't work, he throws an obviously premeditated temper tantrum, storms out and actually has the temerity and hubris to call the whole case a farce, without a whit of acknowledgement that its greatest absurdities are of his own doing.
Perhaps A-Rod should take a cue from his past and look in the mirror. Because even for him – for a habitual liar whose drama-queen antics have devolved into that toxic reality-show marriage of amusement and sadness – Wednesday represented an altogether new level of hissy fitting, which is saying something.
By the end of a day in which Rodriguez had blown up every last confidentiality provision of baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement with a surreal Mike Francesca fluffterview, his modus operandi was clear: napalm the landscape. Torch Major League Baseball. Set aflame the MLB Players Association. Burn down the New York Yankees. And if that meant continuing the most farcical aspect of all – the idea that A-Rod, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, did not use performance-enhancing drugs – at this point it mattered not to him. Nary a word that comes out of his mouth can be trusted anymore, as if it ever could.
A couple hours earlier, Rodriguez walked out of the arbitration hearing ostensibly meant to clear his name, though not before pounding his fist on the table and telling MLB’s lead attorney, Rob Manfred, that “this is [expletive] bull[expletive] and you know it,” sources told Yahoo Sports. Within minutes, a tightly worded press release, either written by the fastest and most cogent lawyers and flacks around, or, much, much, much more realistically, sitting in the Drafts folder ready to be blasted around the moment this entire production began, hit inboxes like a neutron bomb. Attributed to A-Rod, here is how it read in its entirety:
"I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the Players Association refused to order Selig to come in and face me.
"The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce."
At this point, it is only fair to lay out Rodriguez's assertions, so as to understand what would prompt his very well-paid team of advisers to suggest he continues walking through this field of mines he buried himself in. A-Rod is mad because he feels as though MLB is railroading him, the players' association is abandoning him, the New York Yankees are looking to weasel their way out of his large contract.
Here are the facts: The league did suspend him for an arbitrary number of games (211) and paid a significant sum for evidence against him ($125,000). The former was an obvious point for Rodriguez's lawyers to attack and the latter a dirty cost-of-doing-business endeavor, something with which Rodriguez himself is intimately familiar and frowns upon while lounging in his smoking jacket of hypocrisy. So, yeah. MLB wants to get him. Much as it did everyone else involved with the Biogenesis clinic, only the other players cowered to the league's heavy fist, considering, you know, they broke the very rules they agreed to through the collective-bargaining agreement. A-Rod, on the other hand, sees these rules as mere inconveniences. In the fiefdom of his own making, rules are but strung-together words for him to ignore.
It's the same rationale that has him warring against the union, trying to balance the will of its constituency that wants PED users punished with the chutzpah of an egomaniac who wants to fight the sort of fight that took the case to this icky place. And the Yankees? They signed a horrible deal with a player whom they believe misrepresented himself, and if they can get out of it somehow, it's tough to blame them for wanting that. There is a massive leap between desire and conspiracy, and nothing A-Rod's lawyers have thrown out to this point bridge that.
Ultimately, this is barreling toward where it always has: a federal courthouse. No matter what arbitrator Fredric Horowitz decides – when asked for a prediction, three lawyers familiar with the case said they believed he would slice the penalty to 150 games – that apparently is no longer good enough for Rodriguez, even though, again, he is part of a union that bargained for this grievance process to settle such matters.
The general belief among lawyers: Any federal judge is going to say those very words. You had your right to this hearing. You agreed to that framework. And unless you can prove a conspiracy that goes all the way up to Horowitz, a well-respected arbitrator working his very first case for the league and thus with zero history of being at all one-sided, you can take your bogus lawsuit out of here and eat that suspension.
What happened Wednesday, then, left people involved with the case shaking their heads and trying to process the point of the spectacle. Rodriguez's team knew Horowitz wasn't going to make Selig testify – that's why Manfred, his underling and the leader of the investigation, took the stand – and simply used that as the latest red herring to ... nobody is quite sure what, actually. Perhaps lawyer Joe Tacopina has something up his sleeve and believes histrionics will somehow help his client, or the P.R. people advising him, Jay Z handler Desiree Perez and Ron Berkowitz, believe that turning A-Rod into a martyr is the best plan for a 38-year-old whose best days are behind him.
Plenty of naïve people will buy that narrative because they hate Selig or believe in the inherent corruption of large businesses or love Rodriguez because of his brilliance on the field. And if that's the segment Rodriguez intends to capture, he didn't need to pull this stunt. He has them already.
His best chance was to paint MLB not as some rogue organization looking to destroy him but a league that overreached with its suspension because of animus. Instead, A-Rod is nothing more than Jose Canseco, convinced that the black helicopters are real, that Rob Manfred aimed at him from the grassy knoll, that a grand conspiracy exists and he's not going to put up with it anymore.
He took his ball and went home Wednesday to the fiefdom of A-Rod, where nobody is out to get him. And that makes sense. He's the only one who lives there.