By Flint Wheeler

Independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz ruled Saturday that beleaguered Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez must serve a full, 162-game season suspension — plus the 2014 postseason — for his involvement with Biogenesis, the shuttered South Florida anti-aging clinic. It is the longest penalty ever given to a baseball player for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

The decision represents a reduction from the initial 211-game suspension imposed by Major League Baseball, but it’s nevertheless a clear loss — perhaps a career-ender — for A-Rod. Nevertheless, he vowed he wouldn’t yet surrender. He filed a lawsuit against MLB last October as a preemptive strike against this moment, and his lawyers are expected to ask for an injunction to prevent the suspension from being enforced until the lawsuit has played out.

“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner,” Rodriguez said in a statement, “and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court.”

The suspension will cost Rodriguez $22,131,147 from his overall 2014 salary of $25 million, and it gives the Yankees a chance to achieve their goal of getting their 2014 payroll under $189 million.

Nevertheless, the 38-year-old tried to paint himself as fighting for his fellow players.

“This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review,” his statement read. “I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.”

Said MLB in its statement; “For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights. While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

The Yankees now owe Rodriguez $61 million from 2015-17, and the team could try to negotiate a buyout, void what’s left in the contract, simply release Rodriguez, or welcome him back in 2015. The void is as much of a legal long shot as Rodriguez’s injunction, while he has little incentive to give up any of his remaining money owed in a buyout.

The news marks the end — or at least the near-end — of a public saga that began nearly a year ago, when the Miami New Times first reported of Rodriguez’s connection to Biogenesis and its founder, Anthony Bosch. MLB officials, having long suspected Rodriguez of illegal PED usage even after he vowed in 2009 to never use them again, pounced on the story.

MLB’s big break developed when, after suing Bosch for his role in helping players violate the game’s Joint Drug Agreement, it cut a deal with Bosch by which it would drop him from the suit in return for his cooperation. Bosch provided extensive evidence. Most notably, text-messages between him and the accused — Rodriguez and 13 other players used illegal PEDs, even as they passed baseball’s drug tests.

Brewers star Ryan Braun was first, agreeing to a 65-game suspension on July 22. On August 5, MLB suspended A-Rod and 12 fellow Biogenesis clients, with the other dozen all accepting 50-game suspensions.

The discipline disparity prompted Rodriguez to appeal and set in motion one of the ugliest “player vs. league” battles in the history of professional sports. A 12-day hearing that began Sept. 30, ended Nov. 21 and featured endless trash talk along the way. Bosch testified for nearly five days, and Team A-Roid spent much of its time trying not only to discredit Bosch, but the entire MLB investigative team. A-Roid’s group succeeded in rattling MLB officials with its legal and public-relations strategy.

The case essentially ended on the 11th day, when Rodriguez stormed out of the proceedings after it was ruled commissioner Bud Selig wouldn’t be required to testify in front of A-Rod’s lawyers.

Bosch’s spokesperson Joyce Fitzpatrick released a statement reading, “Tony Bosch doesn’t take joy in seeing Alex Rodriguez suspended from baseball, but he believes the arbitrator’s decision was appropriate. He is glad to have the arbitration behind him and believes he can play a valuable role in the future by educating athletes about the dangers of performance enhancing drugs.”

Flint Wheeler
Financial Services Professional
Visit www.FlintWheeler.Com