In the midst of a rancorous appeal, of civilians on Park Avenue holding signs vilifying people they've never heard of, of grand front-door entrances and exits by the protagonist himself, we now have accusations of police impersonators, cars driving other cars off the road, diner bag drops and investigators sleeping with witnesses.
The legal and increasingly personal scuffle between Major League Baseball and its brightest of stars, Alex Rodriguez, long ago became a duel of flamethrowers at 15 feet. Only now it's fit for an airport paperback rack.
On one of the game's sacred days – October baseball in four cities – came the revelation that Rodriguez, along with fighting the longest drug suspension ever handed down, had sued MLB and commissioner Bud Selig for interfering with his ability to play the game and make a living. Filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with attorney fees, for, among other things, the voice-over part Rodriguez lost in the animated film, "Henry and Me."
The suit calls baseball's investigation into Biogenesis, where Rodriguez (along with more than a dozen other players) allegedly procured his performance-enhancing substances, a "witch hunt" that resorted to bullying and other intimidation tactics.
To which MLB responded, basically, that if Rodriguez hadn't been marinating in synthetic testosterone and HGH for all these years, none of this might have been necessary.
If it feels like we've been here before, this time it's in writing, and signed, and filed with the court, and includes Selig's real middle name, "Huber."
Come next April, Rodriguez is scheduled to begin losing about $150,000 a game under the terms of his 211-game suspension. That, of course, is what this is about. Rodriguez's camp has simply broadened the playing field, to beyond the 10-minute cab ride from MLB headquarters to the stately courthouse and beyond the reach of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Joint Drug Agreement, both of which Rodriguez's camp accuses Selig of twisting, if not outright detonating. For the record, Selig's camp accuses Rodriguez of the same.
"The entire legal dynamic is very complex, and my legal team is doing what they need to in order to vindicate me and pursue all of my rights," Rodriguez said in a statement Friday. "This matter is entirely separate from the ongoing arbitration. I look forward to the arbitration proceedings continuing, and for the day to come when I can share my story with the public and my supporters."
See, here's the thing on that: MLB thinks it knows Rodriguez's story. Even Rodriguez hasn't publicly challenged the charge he was in deep with Biogenesis, with Tony Bosch, with a culture that skewed the results of baseball games and put at least some of Rodriguez's fellow union members at a severe disadvantage. What he's never said is, "I didn't do this." What he's implied is, he did it, and he lied about it, but the cost – in games, in salary, in lifestyle – is too steep.
MLB's responded by calling the lawsuit, "Nothing more than a desperate attempt to circumvent the Collective Bargaining Agreement."
"While we vehemently deny the allegations in the complaint," the statement continued, "none of those allegations is relevant to the real issue: 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."
It goes on, but not as salaciously as accusations MLB not only delivered $150,000 in a paper bag for secret Biogenesis documents, but failed to notify the IRS of the transaction, as charged in the lawsuit. Or that Bosch is to receive $5 million for his cooperation in bringing down Rodriguez. ("Tony Bosch has not been paid $5 much less $5 million," a Bosch spokesperson said.) Nowhere in MLB's statement will you find the names of David Letterman or Matt Lauer, or tales of lost endorsement deals with Toyota and Nike, or an entire section titled, "The Disastrous Tenure of Commissioner Selig," or that Selig is out to "destroy" Rodriguez. That's all in the complaint. If nothing else, it'll make for an awkward and contentious day in the arbitration room. More awkward and contentious.
Where – and how – this ends is hazy. What we do know is it could go on longer than the clean portion of Rodriguez's career. Maybe it already has. For years people wondered where Selig and his lieutenants were when steroids infiltrated the sport, why they weren't running cars off the road to stop this, so maybe this is the soggy conclusion to a paperback a hundred pages too long. But, probably not. Rodriguez seems to have determined his money is better served in the pockets of his lawyers than the coffers of the New York Yankees. Where he sees injustice, MLB sees justice, and it's probably just the beginning.
The facts? Did he or didn't he?
That's in the epilogue.