By Ellen Wulfhorst
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez has sued Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig and accused them of trying to destroy his reputation and his career.
The embattled third baseman also filed an additional malpractice lawsuit against the Yankees team doctor Chris Ahmad and a New York hospital for misdiagnosing a hip injury, according to MLB.com.
Rodriguez, who was suspended for 211 games for his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, claims the league and commissioner are engaged in "vigilante justice" and are interfering with his lucrative contracts and business relationships.
MLB and Selig are trying to make an example of Rodriguez, the lawsuit said, "to gloss over Commissioner Self's past inaction and tacit approval of the use of performance enhancing substances in baseball ... and in an attempt to secure his legacy as the 'savior' of America's past time."
Filed in the state Supreme Court in Manhattan on Thursday, the lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
MLB responded to the lawsuit by issuing their own statement, denying the allegations made by Rodriguez and accusing him of trying to circumvent the grievance process of the league and its players.
"For the more than four decades that we have had a collective bargaining relationship with the Major League Baseball Players Association, every player and club dispute has gone through the jointly agreed upon grievance process," MLB said.
"This lawsuit is a clear violation of the confidentiality provisions of our drug program, and it is nothing more than a desperate attempt to circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement."
In August, MLB suspended Rodriguez through to the end of the 2014 season. He was one of 13 players suspended for alleged links with the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic in Florida that is accused of supplying players with performance-enhancing drugs.
Rodriguez, 38, has denied wrongdoing and appealed the ruling. He continued to play - to cheers and jeers - for the rest of the season, which ended for the Yankees last week when the team failed to make the playoff.
Rodriguez's publicist responded to the MLB statement, saying: "Mr. Rodriguez's financial damages lawsuit against Commissioner Selig and Major League Baseball in no way violates the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement. That accusation is preposterous.
"As for the Collective Bargaining Agreement's discipline appeal process, Mr. Rodriguez respects the process."
Hearings on Rodriguez's appeal began this week, but a decision is not expected until later this month or next.
The lawsuit claimed MLB also improperly collected evidence against Rodriguez, including buying what were described as stolen Biogenesis-related documents for $150,000.
A 14-time All-Star and three-time Most Valuable Player, Rodriguez is the only player challenging his penalty.
He claimed in the lawsuit that by publicly leaking information into its investigation, MLB has prejudiced his appeal, tarnished his character and damaged his efforts to land lucrative endorsement contracts.
"MLB's public persecution of Mr. Rodriguez has known no bounds," the lawsuit said. "MLB has permanently harmed Mr. Rodriguez's reputation."
The other players accepted offers of 50-game bans, but the player known widely as A-Rod received a stiffer punishment because he was accused of other offenses, including lying to the investigators.
"While we vehemently deny the allegations in the complaint, none of those allegations is relevant to the real issue," MLB said in their statement on Friday.
"Whether Mr. Rodriguez violated the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by using and possessing numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years and whether he violated the Basic Agreement by 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."
Geoffrey Rapp, a University of Toledo professor who specializes in torts and sports law, said Rodriguez is claiming tortious interference, which the MLB also claimed in a separate suit against Biogenesis, but may face a tough challenge winning the case.
"It is ironic that he's trying to use the same sort of legal weapon that baseball used in its suit, but I would say (Rodriguez) faces a steeper uphill burden in proving the claim," Rapp said.
Nathaniel Grow, a University of Georgia sports law professor, said Rodriguez will also have to prove MLB acted improperly.
"The standard in law for a tortious interference claim is typically very high," Grow said. "If Rodriguez can prove Bosch was bribed, he may be able to meet that standard."
(Additional reporting by Karen Freifeld, Julian Linden and Elizabeth Dilts; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Maureen Bavdek and Gene Cherry)