This Got Interesting

The A-Rod arbitration hearing took a big turn today. Alex stormed out of the hearing, cursed out a baseball executive and vowed that he would not return to the proceedings. This was reportedly in response to the arbitrator in the case ruling that Bud Selig doesn’t need to testify. Alex then went to WFAN’s studios and sat down with Mike Francesa for an interview. (They haven’t posted the audio of it yet, but you can bet they will soon.)  In the interview he denied doing anything wrong, including using PED’s and obstructing the investigation. Here’s a partial transcript of the key exchange

Francesa– “Were you guilty of any of these charges?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do anything wrong?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do any PED’s?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you obstruct just- anybody any witnesses? Did you do anything they accused you of doing?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Nothing?”

A-Rod– “Nothing”

Francesa– “So you are guilty in your mind of nothing?”

A-Rod– “I feel like I should be there opening day”

All of this raises a number of questions. First and foremost, why won’t Bud Selig testify in the arbitration hearing? Considering all we have heard about MLB’s behavior so far, Selig should take the stand and tell his side of the story. And Alex’s side has a good argument that the arbitrator is afraid of being fired by Selig if he compels him to testify since that could happen (not until after this case) and did happen to the arbitrator who ruled that Ryan Braun didn’t fail a drug test in 2011.

Now, was Alex’s reaction today genuine? That’s a tougher one to answer. On one hand, I can understand why he was angry and I can’t blame him. On the other, he needed to make a scene. Let me explain that one further. Arbitration is used to keep things out of the courts and since MLB and the Players’ Association have agreed to use arbitration to solve their disputes, A-Rod is going to have a tough time getting a court to listen to an appeal of arbitration unless he can somehow convince a court that he was railroaded. That’s why I would be very suspicious of his motives today.

But ultimately, Alex proclaimed his innocence clearly and unequivocally. I don’t know why he waited until now to do so, he claims it was  because of his attorneys, but he has done it. He was clearly upset in his interview with Francesa over how he has been treated by MLB, Selig and the Yankees. (They are replaying it on YES after the Nets game tonight if you want to watch)  I don’t know where this is going next, but it is clear that Alex is going to exhaust every avenue possible to him if the arbitrator finds he is guilty.


Wallowing In The Mud

Today the New York Times published a front page article on the A-Rod vs. MLB drama. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here is a nice synopsis of it. It is fair to say that both sides come across as absolutely awful.

MLB has clearly decided to pursue victory at all costs. It is absolutely revolting to read the depths they have sunk to in their pursuit of Alex.

But that doesn’t excuse Alex’s behavior. Put aside the tampering, the cheating and think about the $100,000 anonymous donation to a Hispanic charity with the proviso that they publicly support Alex’s side.

Whatever happens when the final judgement is handed down, there will be no winners. Both sides have sunk to depths that make rooting for either of them impossible. All we can hope for now is a quick end to this mess.

Closer To The Bottom

So the A-Rod saga took a number of additional twists and turns over the weekend and it only got uglier.

First we had A-Rod’s lawyers saying the Yankees covered up his injury last year while Alex played dumb with the press.

Then we had Ryan Dempster throw four times at Alex with the umpires ejecting Joe Girardi.

Finally, we had MLB try to humiliate Alex’s lawyer on TV this morning.

Nobody looks very good here folks, but let’s break it down.

For the injury news, the bottom line is why didn’t Alex file a grievance until this weekend? My suspicion is that Alex’s motivation is to force the Yankees into a corner. They can either keep sending him out there while he takes his shots at the club, or they can swallow and cut him loose paying him a fortune in the process. I imagine Alex thinks that as long as he produces, someone will be happy to give him AB’s in the majors, especially if they can pay him the league minimum. So, maybe he does get suspended for 2014. But if he hits like he has so far in 2013, someone would be willing to take a flier on him in 2015. (Miami?) All he needs is his freedom from the Yankees, which he might get if he keeps this up.

As for Dempster, I have a number of problems with what happened. First, don’t hit A-Rod because he can play while appealing a suspension under the rules that YOUR union negotiated. Change the rules? Second, you sent your message with the first pitch, you don’t need to keep trying until you actually hit him.  As a Yankees’ fan, I was actually pleased by Dempster’s actions because I think they motivated the Yankees, but what are the umpires doing warning both benches after that? I don’t blame Girardi for flipping out, his player got thrown at four times and his pitcher hadn’t done a thing. Very, very strange way to handle that.

Finally, how in the world can MLB send a letter to A-Rod’s lawyer via Matt Lauer? When Alex said MLB was out to get him, I shrugged it off, but if MLB will stoop to trying to play “gotcha” with his lawyer by using a national TV figure, I am not sure Alex is wrong to be paranoid. It was a stupid, stupid PR stunt for an organization that should be smarter.

The race to the bottom continues….

What’s Going To Happen?

I am really curious to see what happens when Alex Rodriguez steps to the plate tonight. I think there could be three different reactions.

1- The St. Louis/San Francisco reception. He gets a standing ovation because fans hate cheaters, but only cheaters on other teams. You have to support your cheater.

2- The every other ballpark in the league reception. He gets booed unmercifully.

3- The LA reaction. The fans haven’t entered the ballpark by the time he steps to the plate, or they don’t really react at all because they are checking out their hair.

I certainly hope it isn’t #1 or #3. And while I would understand #2, I would like to see Yankees fans get creative with expressing their scorn. I would like to see two things happen.

1- In the Top of the First when the roll call happens, I hope the Bleacher Creatures simply skip chanting A-Rod’s name. That would be a neat form of protest.

2- Whenever he comes to hit, I hope all the fans just get up and walk to the concession stands or turn their backs SILENTLY on A-Rod. Can you imagine that? Alex gets introduced and everyone simply ignores him? That would be the perfect reaction in my mind. Save the boos for the next time he comes to the plate.

Whatever happens, I suspect most of us will be watching.

What Do I Root For?

As a Yankee fan I am not sure what to root for in the next 24 hours.

As a selfish fan, it is easy. You want A-Rod to return to the lineup right now. Yes, he is 38 and has two bad hips, but it is very hard to imagine a scenario where he is worse than the guys the Yankees have run out there so far in 2013. The harsh truth is, the 2013 Yankees need Alex. But the 2014 Yankees might not, especially if they could be rid of his salary. So, A-Rod returning for 2013 and then being suspended for 2014 would be the best thing for the “root for the laundry” crowd.

But, I can’t do that. I can’t sit there and enjoy watching Alex play right now. I don’t know exactly what he did, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t good. He asked us in 2009 to judge him by what happened from that day forward. It certainly seems like he has failed miserably by that standard.

Things is life are hardly ever black or white and I think PED use falls under that category. If you grew up dirt poor and suddenly found a way to make enough money for you, your children and your children’s children to never have to worry about finances again, would you take it even if it was breaking the rules? I don’t know my own answer to that and that is why I can understand why some of these players did what they did.

But Alex was clearly not in that category when all of this happened. He had already made loads of money, so why did he cheat? Columnists have plenty of opinions from insecurities to just being a bad guy, but we will never know unless Alex tells us.

And that is ultimately what I would like to see come out of this. When all of the legal wrangling is finished I hope there is a moment where Alex tells us what really happened. He has said he will and I hope he does, but I think it is unlikely.

The sad truth of this whole mess is that there are no winners here. MLB can crow all it wants about cleaning up the game, but the majority of Biogenisis clients DIDN’T fail a PED test. As with most things in life, a seemingly trivial dispute led to this whole situation. Without that, none of this becomes public and all of these guys are still considered clean. And I think we all know that there are other clinics out there right now feeding their clients illegal PED’s. One day some of them may come to light, but chances are plenty will not.

So what do we do as fans? Do we applaud knowing that some of what we are watching is chemically enhanced? Do we turn off the tube in anger at the artificial nature of it all? Is there some middle ground? I don’t know the answer, but I know the upcoming announcement will do nothing to answer those questions. I guess the best scenario is that this all ends tomorrow and we move on-waiting for the next scandal to emerge.

Somebody Tackle Him!

Somebody please get Alex to stop talking. There has to be someone close to him who can tell him to shut up because he is simply digging the hole bigger and it is already big enough.

The latest from various outlets is that Alex’s comments Friday night pissed off MLB and the Yankees. That’s not a shock. What is surprising is that Alex reportedly went to both MLB and the Yankees today to try and broker settlements. He went to MLB to get his suspension reduced and he went to the Yankees to talk about a settlement on his contract. Both sides have said no way. MLB is reportedly going to suspend him for 214 games, aka the rest of 2013 and all of 2014, Monday.

As for the Yankees, I suspect Alex is going to have to take a substantial cut in salary to get a settlement from the team. Assuming he is suspended for all of 2013 and 2014, the Yankees have plenty of incentive to wait and see what condition he shows up in when he reports in 2015 because they insured his contract. If Alex couldn’t play baseball, or he got hurt while away from the game, the Yankees could collect $48-million of the $60-million they would still owe him from the insurance company. That’s a pretty strong incentive to sit and wait for 2015, but the Yankees are also pragmatic. They certainly realize that A-Rod is not helping their brand and he may be hurting it. Alex clearly doesn’t trust them and he has to know his best bet for any possible return to baseball is not in the fishbowl of New York. A settlement seems like a reasonable solution for both parties.

It’s amazing to think, but the possibility that Alex will never again play for the Yankees seems very real tonight.

Naming Names

ESPN is reporting that Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis is going to cooperate with MLB and name people he sold PED’s to. And yes, we know who is at the very top of the reported list.

Besides A-Rod, there are some pretty big names on the list. Ryan Braun is arguably a bigger star right now than Alex. Melky is reportedly on the list as is Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli. In their report, ESPN details that not only will MLB seek to suspend them all, they will try and get 100-game suspensions for Braun and A-Rod under the second-time offender rule because they will claim two offenses were committed here. (Good luck with that.)

One of my biggest problems with the Mitchell Report was that MLB didn’t investigate enough. They essentially piggybacked on the work of the FBI and got lucky with Radomski. I opined at the time that there was probably a BALCO-like lab in most MLB cities. So, I am pleased that MLB aggressively pursued this and I hope that they are pursuing other unknown leads out there.

As for what this means for the Yankees, well a number of things. I suspect the Yankees will strongly try and invalidate the home run incentives in his contract if he is found guilty. They won’t have a prayer of getting his contract invalidated, but I suspect they will do at least that. You can be suspended while on the DL, so the timing of this will be interesting. The Yankees are playing Game #58 tonight. As long as the suspensions don’t come down in the next week, a 100-game suspension would mean no A-Rod in 2013.

There is also the matter of Francisco Cervelli. If he gets suspended 50 games the Yankees should really consider giving Austin Romine more of the catching duties. Cervelli is arbitration eligible in 2014 and I suspect the Yankees might let him walk away if he is guilty of this charge. Stay tuned, the next few days should be very interesting.

It Keeps Getting Worse

The New York Times is reporting that MLB has evidence that Alex Rodriguez bought documents from the PED clinic in Miami that he is said to have used.

I can’t see how buying these documents would be a crime, but it certainly looks very, very bad. What reason would Alex have to buy the documents besides the fact that he didn’t want someone to see his name in them? It certainly looks like a desperate attempt to preserve his credibility and avoid a major suspension from baseball.

Alex has three choices now that this story has broken. He can stand up and deny it, essentially forcing MLB to prove that he did this. He can stay far away from the Yankees and the cameras under the guise of injury rehab and let the fallout from this hit his teammates and anyone else the press can get to. Or, he can stand up and admit to what he has been accused of doing. Does anyone care to bet that he takes option #2?

The Sad Truth

The names continue to drip out of the Miami clinic and there are rumors that the newspaper that broke the story is going to cooperate with MLB , so expect more names to appear soon. But, none of this will solve the basic problem which the originally story outlined, the drugs are just too cheap.

Lost in the hype over the names in the original story was this little nugget:

On a 2009 client list, near A-Rod’s name, is that of Yuri Sucart, who paid Bosch $500 for a weeklong supply of HGH.

$500 a week means a yearlong supply of HGH is $26,000. MLB players who are in the majors make a minimum of $490,000 this year. And remember, up until now there has been no way to test for HGH. When you consider the millions handed out to players with even average stats, I think you would have to agree that the temptation to cheat and start using HGH must be very, very high for a lot of players.

And that’s the sad reality of all of this. There will always be new drugs developed that athletes will find out about. With millions of dollars on the line, the temptations to cheat will always be there. MLB can trumpet its drug policies all it wants, but its hard to see how we will ever have a truly clean game in the 21st Century.

More Fun With Alex

Just when you thought Alex Rodriguez couldn’t get more interesting, here’s a new PED story linking him and other athletes to an outfit in Miami. It was back in early 2009, ironically during his last hip surgery recovery, that A-Rod admitted to using steroids during a three-year period. The Yankees stood by Alex and supported him at his press conference where he supposedly came clean.

But, that was a different A-Rod.  That guy had won a MVP in 2007 and he hit .302/.392/.573 in 2008. The Yankees needed that player to be productive and their faith was rewarded with a championship in 2009 that would not have been won without Alex. Now, things are very, very different.

Let’s start with the obvious, this isn’t the same player. Rodriguez just had surgery on his other hip. He has not hit .300 since 2008 and his OPS has declined every year since 2007. He has hit 34 homers over the last two seasons and has appeared in only 221 games during that period. Couple that with his contract which has 5 years and $114-million left on it before incentives (we will get to those) and I think it is fair to say that the Yankees won’t be as supportive this time around if these allegations prove to be true.

And this is the where the biggest change from 2009 comes in, the quest to get a payroll below $189-million in 2014. I’ve detailed how hard it will be to accomplish, but if the Yankees somehow could subtract the $27.5 AAV of Alex’s contract, it becomes a lot easier to achieve. Now, I don’t see any way that is possible, but I do think the Yankees will have an argument to make against Alex’s contract incentives.

Alex gets $6-million each time he hits a milestone home run which are defined as home run #660, 714, 755, 762 and 763.  And those bonuses will count against the Yankees’ payroll when they are earned. So, with Alex out until July,  currently hitting a home run about once every 6.5 games and sitting at 647 career homers, there is a very real chance that he won’t hit #660 until 2014. And that would cost the Yankees an extra $6-million in payroll which could completely obliterate their quest to get under $189 million.

So, I expect the Yankees to attack those incentive clauses. A-Rod has already admitted to using PED’s from 2001-2003 when he hit 156 homers. The Yankees could use that and these latest allegations to try and invalidate his 660th homer, arguing that his real total would be less without the use of PED’s. I imagine the Yankees are thinking over their options very carefully right now.  And, at the very least, I imagine Hal has given Hank a huge wedgie, at least I hope he has.