When he was young and we imagined the records Alex Rodriguez might set one day, getting the longest suspension in baseball history wasn't one of them.
Yet that's exactly what happened to A-Rod on Monday, as the commissioner's office handed down a 211-game ban to the man who was once the game's biggest star. It's the longest non-lifetime suspension.
MLB ruled that A-Rod violated the joint drug agreement in his dealings with the Biogenesis clinic, a now-infamous performance-enhancing drug supplier in the Miami area. Rodriguez, 38, is expected to appeal MLB's decision. He's also expected to rejoin the Yankees on Monday night in Chicago, and is free to play until his appeal is heard. The only surprise in Monday's announcement is that A-Rod's suspension is for 211 games not the 214 expected and it will take effect on Thursday, not immediately.
In announcing the suspension, MLB said:
Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is 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. The suspension, which will become effective on Thursday, August 8th, will cover 211 Championship Season games and any 2013 Postseason games in which Rodriguez otherwise would have been eligible to play.
The suspension, if upheld, would cost him roughly $30 million in salary. He's making $28 million this season and $25 million in 2014. It could also prove to be a career-ender, considering A-Rod's age and declining health. If he does play Monday, it would be his first game of the season. He just completed a second round of minor-league rehab, his final step in working his way back from offseason hip surgery.
MLB's announcement cited A-Rod's connections to Biogenesis, a trail of records indicating his PED use over multiple years and his attempts to interfere with the Biogenesis investigation. All of it was enough, the league decided, to suspended A-Rod for 214 games, which amounts to the rest of this season and all of next season. The appeal process, of course, would change that timeline a bit.
This is a second — and a much more damning — link to PEDs for A-Rod, who admitted in 2009 that he used testosterone and Primobolan from 2001-2003. He wasn't disciplined then.
Rodriguez is one of many players connected to the Miami-area anti-aging clinic that was exposed as a performance-enhancing-drug supplier to pro baseball players. Suspensions were also handed down to 12 other players on Monday including Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers.
Earlier in this ordeal, A-Rod reportedly was offered a settlement by MLB. His camp vowed to fight any punishment from MLB. Last week, A-Rod's reps were reportedly bargaining with MLB. However, after A-Rod spoke out on Friday night implying that MLB and the Yankees were conspiring to cancel his contract, the league reportedly said it was done negotiating with him.
There was talk that MLB would suspended A-Rod under both the joint drug agreement and the collective bargaining agreement, activating the "best interest of baseball" clause so A-Rod couldn't play during his appeal. Ultimately, MLB decided against that.
If suspended for 214 games, A-Rod would be eligible to return to the New York Yankees in the 2015 season. He'd be 39 going on 40 and would be paid $21 million. The 10-year, $275 million contract he signed in 2008 would pay him a total of $61 million for 2015-2017.
A three-time MVP and a five-time home run leader, Rodriguez is both baseball's highest paid player and one of its most polarizing figures. He's baseball's active home-run leader with 647 (fifth overall), but he's been in decline since his MVP season of 2007. Then he hit 54 homers with 156 RBIs. Last season, he hit only 18 homers with 57 RBIs. He's been fighting injuries for the past three seasons.
A-Rod hasn't played in 2013 after having offseason hip surgery. His return to the Yankees has been — to put things nicely — contentious. He butted heads with Yankees GM Brian Cashman about rehab updates on Twitter, then had a less-than-thrilling jaunt through the Yanks minor-league system, playing 13 games and hitting .250 in 40 at-bats.
He missed one minor league game after meeting with MLB about the Biogenesis case. It was written that A-Rod was so shook by the case MLB presented against him that he met with his lawyers for hours instead of going to a rehab game.
Rodriguez looked like he was going to return the Yankees lineup two weeks ago, before a quad strain kept him sidelined. That, too, turned dramatic, as A-Rod maintained he was fine and sought a second opinion from a non-Yankees doctor who agreed he was ready to play. Cashman still insisted that A-Rod wouldn't play until Yankees doctors cleared him.
The whole ordeal fueled conspiracy theories that the Yankees were trying to keep A-Rod out of the lineup so they could collect insurance money to cover part of his $28 million salary for this season. Meanwhile, the same tabloids said A-Rod was rushing to get back so he could get paid.
His return to the Yankees might be complete if he steps on the field on Monday. But with the suspension still looming over him, it's A-Rod's future in pinstripes we'll all be following next.