Then they all went home, led by Alex Rodriguez, who bugged out a day early. His arbitration case against Major League Baseball concluded Thursday in New York. In 12 days of hearings spread across nearly two months, MLB and Rodriguez argued and postured and bickered, and when arbitrator Frederic Horowitz returns a verdict – assuming that verdict does not exonerate Rodriguez – not a single person will believe that is the end of it.
It seems likely Rodriguez, who was appealing a 211-game suspension, would challenge in court even the lightest of penalties and also seek an injunction to continue his career while that is decided.
So, as the case wrapped up at MLB headquarters, there was the sense more of the same would come. Different time, different place, same evidence against Rodriguez that MLB officials considered a "mountain," that Rodriguez's attorneys viewed as a molehill, spin it again.
What are we left with?
Alex Rodriguez said he didn't do it. Wasn't him. Who you gonna believe, me or those lyin' eyes-a yours?
"Nutrition and weight loss," he said.
Tony Bosch was trading in illicit pills and potions, but not for A-Rod. For him, protein bars and dietary supplements. The legit rack. A guy from Miami he knew with some powders and stuff, is all.
It's MLB that trades in "felons and liars," Rodriguez observed, but not him. He's clean, he said, you know, since that other time. And all that's left, it would seem, is for Horowitz to lower the gavel on 211 games, or 150, or whatever it's going to be, releasing them all from a process guided by, as Rodriguez sees it, Bud Selig's hatred for Rodriguez.
He didn't attend his own arbitration hearing Thursday, quitting because he was so far behind, or quitting because the fix was in, or quitting because it's the shortest route from here to a courtroom – "a real jurisdiction," as his lawyer called it in the New York Post. His union, his lawyers and MLB soldiered on, but his lawyers had only another witness or two to call. Lord knows what they had left to talk about anymore. The big play was to be Selig on the stand, answering for what Rodriguez wants to believe is an agenda fueled by dirty tactics, rogue and amorous investigators, and bag drops.
What comes is a 20-year commissioner and one of the game's all-time greats in a dizzying, gruesome spectacle, Rodriguez v. The Man, the New York Yankees and their winter plans caught in between, and it'll only get grander. What comes, presumably, is an open courtroom, and rhetoric on courthouse steps, and maybe even Rodriguez walking into a Yankees clubhouse a few days after pitchers and catchers report.
He didn't do it, he said. But he wouldn't go on the record if Selig wouldn't, and that doesn't even matter anymore, the strained logic of it, because what's next was always going to be next – more lawyers, more gavels, more witness stands. On Friday, his spokesperson said, he will pull back the curtain on the case against – and for – Alex Rodriguez by releasing all the evidence. "The lawyers," spokesperson Ron Berkowitz said, "will decide what that entails." Confidentiality requirements be damned.
In the early hours of Thursday, an A-Rod-less Thursday, one of Rodriguez's attorneys challenged MLB's assertion that Selig by precedent does not testify in drug cases. Jim McCarroll was the author of the statement. The all-caps are his.
It read: "This is the FIRST hearing under the drug agreement without a positive test. The FIRST where the Commissioner's discretion and decision making comes into play, without any science behind it. We also understand that under the prior collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner testified in 5 of the last 7 hearings, and he was harshly criticized in the arbitrator's decision for not voluntarily appearing in at least one of the two where he did not testify. MLB continues to freely lie to the fans about Alex on an ongoing basis."
MLB officials were somewhat mystified by that. Since 2002, when the league entered into a joint drug program with the players' union, one official said Selig has never testified. Prior to then, when commissioners had only their best-interests-of-the-game powers to police drugs, they did routinely testify.
But that's gone now. MLB officials suspect Horowitz could need the month of December to sort through the past couple months and beyond, and then he'll render his decision, which will feel like the end for a few minutes, perhaps.
That's what we're left with.