MLB Suspends Alex Rodriguez, 12 Other Players, In Drug Investigation

Alex Rodriguez and 12 other Major League Baseball players were suspended today for PED use. Rodriguez is the only one vowing to fight the suspension.

Alex Rodriguez

After weeks of speculation, rumors about the sanctions that might ultimiately be imposed, and behind the scenes negotiations with players and their representatives, Major League Baseball issued one of its broadest ranging serious of sanctions for use of performance enhancing drugs against thirteen players, including one of the most recognizable names in the game:

Alex Rodriguez was among 13 players suspended by Major League Baseball on Monday for violating the league’s antidoping protocols, the biggest single-day drug action in the sport’s history.

Rodriguez is planning to appeal his ban, which would be for 211 games, through the 2014 season — by far the longest levied by the league for a doping violation. The league cited his “use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited, performance-enhancing substances” over many years.

Recovering from hip surgery and a quadriceps strain, Rodriguez is likely to make his 2013 return to the Yankees’ lineup Monday night in Chicago against the White Sox. He is eligible to play until his appeal is heard by an arbitrator.

Among the others suspended were three All-Stars — Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the San Diego Padres and Jhonny Peralta of the Detroit Tigers — as well as Francisco Cervelli of the Yankees.

The other players suspended were Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, Jordany Valdespin of the Mets and Jesus Montero of the Mariners; the minor leaguers Cesar Puello of the Mets, Fautino de los Santos of the Padres, Sergio Escalona of the Astros and Fernando Martinez of the Yankees; and the free agent pitcher Jordan Norberto.

Each received a 50-game suspension, effectively ending his 2013 season, after agreeing not to appeal the punishment.

Rodriguez is the only player who will appeal.

“For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension,” Michael Weiner, executive director of the players union, said in a statement. “We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.”

Commissioner Bud Selig, however, said the suspension was within the bounds of the league’s antidoping rules.

“I am proud of the comprehensive nature of our efforts — not only with regard to random testing, groundbreaking blood testing for human growth hormone and one of the most significant longitudinal profiling programs in the world, but also our investigative capabilities, which proved vital to the Biogenesis case,” Selig said in a statement. “We conducted a thorough, aggressive investigation guided by facts so that we could justly enforce our rules.”

The suspensions stemmed from the league’s investigation into a South Florida anti-aging clinic. They are the biggest trophies in baseball’s fight against performance-enhancing drugs, and were apparently handed down without a single positive drug test as evidence. The investigation was a result of a newspaper exposé of the Biogenesis clinic in South Florida. The head of that clinic, Anthony P. Bosch, cooperated with baseball’s investigation, and the league said he provided much of the information that led to the suspensions.

Major League Baseball was able to persuade almost all of the players linked to Biogenesis to accept their punishments, despite the apparent lack of a positive test for banned substances. Baseball’s drug-testing program, agreed to by the players union, allows for suspensions based on nonanalytic positives when doping can be proved with other evidence.

The suspensions will have an impact on the rest of the baseball season, and have played a role in some of the moves made at the trade deadline. For example, the Tigers dealt for a shortstop who would replace Peralta, anticipating his suspension. The Rangers, though, did not make a trade before the deadline and will need to find a backup to replace Cruz for the rest of the season.

Rodriguez, 38, has long been under suspicion for using performance-enhancing drugs, which he admitted using for a limited time earlier in his career. For the past six months, since The Miami New Times published its account of Biogenesis providing drugs to professional athletes, including Rodriguez, baseball investigators have intensified their pursuit of Rodriguez, going door to door in the Miami area hunting for information that would prove the Yankees third baseman had broken baseball’s doping rules.

The sanction imposed on Rodriguez is far less severe than what had been discussed in many of the rumors that had been discussed leading up to today’s announcement. There was some indication that MLB was looking at issuing a lifetime ban against him if he refused to make a deal, and that Commissioner Selig was prepared to make that suspension effective under the “Best interests of baseball” clause of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which would have meant that Rodriguez would not have been able to continue playing even if he filed an appeal of the punishment. Neither of those things occurred today, though. Instead, Rodriguez faces a suspension that, if it started on Thursday as today’s order sets forth, would last for the remainder of this season and the entirety of the 2014 season. Given that everyone seems to be expecting Rodriguez to appeal this sanction, though, he’ll be permitted to continue playing until an arbitrator rules on the sanction and the suspension, if it’s upheld would begin on some date after the arbitrator’s decision. Theoretically, this could end up meaning that A-Rod will end up being ineligible for at least some part of the 2015 season as well even if its only a few weeks in April of that year.

Presently, Rodiguez is back with the Yankees, who are currently in Chicago and scheduled to play the White Sox this evening. While Yankees Manager Joe Girardi has yet to release the lineup as of the time I’m writing this post, it’s expected that Rodriguez will be back in the lineup, a move that isn’t unexpected given that he’s apparently now healthy enough to play and being paid far too much money to sit on the bench. What will be interesting to see, however, is how Rodriguez is received on his return both by his fellow teammates and by fans. It being Chicago, I’m expecting that A-Rod will get something of a raucous reception from the crowd when he steps to the plate for the first time tonight, but I can’t say that I’m expecting him to get much of a warmer reception from the crowd in Yankee Stadium when the team returns for its next home game on Friday August 9th. Much of it will depend on how well he actually performs coming off the injuries that plagued him last year, but one gets the general impression that the fans in the Bronx are pretty much done with A-Rod and the circus that has surrounded him for much of the last year.

For their part, the Yankees have issued the following statement:

“We are in full support of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We also recognize and respect the appeals process. Until the process under the Drug Program is complete, we will have no comment. We are confident that the process outlined in the Drug Program will result in the appropriate resolution of this matter. In the meantime, the Yankees remain focused on playing baseball.

However, we are compelled to address certain reckless and false allegations concerning the Yankees’ role in this matter. The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez.

Rodriguez isn’t the only player suspended today, of course. As the Times article quoted above notes, there were also suspensions issued against 12 other players, some of them key parts of teams that are far more in the playoff hunt this year than the Yankees have been to date. Those suspensions could have a significant impact on how those teams fare for the rest of the season, and the course of the post-season as well. The difference, of course, is that these players all agreed to their suspensions after being presented with the evidence that MLB has against them. For reasons that I can only assume are attributable to pride, arrogance, and the fact that he’s got about $30 million on the line, Rodriguez refused to do so. Now, all of that evidence is going to become public and, even if he somehow manages to get the period of the suspension reduced, that evidence is going to tarnish his reputation even further to the point where he’s likely to be poison to any franchise that might be willing to take him in the future. But, that’s apparently the course of action he’s chosen so he kind of deserves what’s going to happen to him, doesn’t he?

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    From here out the operative assumption is that anyone caught excelling at any sport…is cheating.

  2. Dave D says:

    He’s 38 and washed up as it is. No one in the future is going to be willing to buy that toxic contract out from under the Yankees. Even less likely after a suspension shortened or not. Who would be willing to pick up a 40 year old that hasn’t played for over a season, even at league minimum assuming the Yankees eat his contract and release him?

  3. PD Shaw says:

    I’m not shocked A.Rod’ll fight anything greater than 50 days. His star has peaked and fading. He will not be as good of a player whenever he returns, so he might as well fight for playing time today at the cost of future A.Rod.

  4. PJ says:

    Good, A-Rod gets a 211 game suspension that will for all purposes end his career and the Yankees are still going to have to pay him.

    If an PED suspension would lead to the team not having to pay the player, then it would give a team a way to get out of contracts by spiking the food…

  5. PD Shaw says:

    At least nine of the players are/were represented by the Aces Sports Agency, plus Melky Cabrera who was previously suspended for PEDs. Nelson Cruz says Aces sent him to Biogenesis. I assume an investigation is continuing, probably by the FBI on this angle.

  6. al-Ameda says:

    There are 2 ways to go with this:

    (1) legalize PEDs

    (2) increase the penalties so that the risk of being caught equals the potential reward for using PEDs (big contracts).

    I say, if you believe in (2), then how about this: the 1st time you’re caught a 1 year suspension and the club pays a fine equal to the average 1-year value of the contract, the 2nd time you’re caught it’s a lifetime ban, and the club pays a fine equal to the remaining value of the contract.

  7. Tyrell says:

    I remember years ago when the House had those hearings about baseball and several players were there to testify, including McGuire, Canseco, and that player from Baltimore whose name escapes my memory , but played for years there. We saw some very bizarre statements. I wondered why baseball seemed to be singled out and not football or pro wrestling. Pro wrestling to me has more widespread use of steroids and other drugs. Some of those guys make the baseball players look small. Yet nothing ever seems to be done about them. Why?
    Cena beat the Rock at Wrestlemania Saturday night! Cenation rolls!!

  8. PD Shaw says:

    @Tyrell: Baseball really didn’t have any enforcement policy on PEDs at the time of the Congressional hearings, unlike the NFL, which was held up as an exemplar at the time. Arguably the players that testified did not violate any rules of the game, but their use of these drugs was a crime.

  9. PJ says:

    @Tyrell:

    Pro wrestling to me has more widespread use of steroids and other drugs. Some of those guys make the baseball players look small. Yet nothing ever seems to be done about them. Why?

    Because pro wrestling is a joke and not a sport.
    It’s the reality tv of sports…

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    I wondered why baseball seemed to be singled out and not football or pro wrestling.

    (1) For some reason people hold baseball to higher standard, and I’m not sure why.
    (2) Although people love football more than any other sport, they do not care if NFL players juice up in order to play at high speed and lay in vicious tackles and hits – in fact they expect it.
    (3) Pro Wresting? Who cares, everyone knows it’s faked show business.