COMMENTARY | It's all about Alex Rodriguez.
If the other Biogenesis shoe drops, as CBS Sports is reporting, and an A-Rod suspension follows Ryan Braun's rest-of-season suspension, the question for Rodriguez, the New York Yankees, and their fans will be: Will he appeal?
The Yankees and their fans should hope he does, as the decision will impact the club this year and beyond.
Despite fielding a team of replacement-level outcasts and old-timers, the Yankees remain in a position to make a push toward a postseason spot. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Michael Pineda, and Rodriguez all remain on track to return within a few weeks while the bullpen continues to keep the team in games despite a Triple-A level offense.
Yankees fans may hate Rodriguez, but few would argue that he wouldn't be an upgrade over Luis Cruz and David Adams. The team has had the worst production at third base of any team in the majors this year - a .220 batting average, .283 on-base percentage, 4 home runs, and 27 RBI. (The lowly Houston Astros have more than three times as many home runs from the third base spot.)
How would an appeal help the team next year and beyond?
As the New York Post 's Ken Davidson recently reported, the Yankees would get some flexibility toward meeting Hal Steinbrenner's goal of bringing down the team's payroll.
Should A-Rod appeal a suspension and lose his case, he would serve most or all of it next year, right at the start of the Yankees' plans to bring down the team's payroll, and salary not paid does not go toward a team's payroll calculation, according to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement. Therefore, an 81-game suspension would take half of A-Rod's $27.5 million average annual salary off the books. (He's set to be paid $25 million for the season, but for luxury tax purposes, the Yankees will be charged $27.5 million because A-Rod is in the middle of a 10-year/$275 million deal.)
Currently, MLB and the players association have a single arbitrator to hear appeals cases. According to the collective bargaining agreement, each player who appeals is supposed to have his case heard within 20 days of a suspension and receive a verdict within 25 days following the opening of the hearing. Given those timetables, it's likely that if Rodriguez is suspended, he appeals, and loses, the suspension wouldn't begin until next season, thus helping Brian Cashman meet Steinbrenner's goal.
In addition to $25 million owed to Rodriguez, the Yankees have four other guaranteed contracts for next season - C.C. Sabathia ($24.4 million), Mark Teixeira ($22.5 million), Vernon Wells ($21 million), and Ichiro Suzuki ($6.5 million).
The pact between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association upped the luxury tax to 50 percent for perennial repeat offenders beginning next season. Therefore, for every $1 spent over a set amount ($189 million), the Yankees' true cost would be $1.50. However, the agreement could also grant the Yankees a reprieve. If the team stays below the luxury tax threshold for 2014 and goes again over in 2015, its 2015 tax rate would only be 17.5 percent (and rise every year thereafter if the team continued to stay over the threshold).
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.
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