Other than the fact that he plays for New York, the Alex Rodriguez situation has little bearing on the Baltimore Orioles. But as ESPN’s Lee Corso likes to say, “…NOT SO FAST!” Alex Rodriguez’s case has a bearing upon the entire league, and possibly upon all of American sports and culture. Sure on the outside it may look like a simple case involving a player using banned substances, however it has a far more sinister and broad-reaching affect than that. First the most recent facts: yesterday an arbitrator reduced Rodriguez’s suspension from 211 games to 162, which of course is a full season. End of story, right? Not so fast…
In the immediate aftermath of yesterday’s ruling, ARod released a statement that among other things said that the deck has always been stacked against him. Here’s the short of it…he’s claiming that on a legal plain he hasn’t been treated fairly by MLB. And guess what folks? – He just might be right. Legally speaking, that is. Let me be clear; as a writer but also a “an of the game I would have had no issue with Bud Selig using his “for the good of the game clause” powers and issuing Rodriguez a lifetime ban. In my mind, there’s no question that Alex Rodriguez used performance enhancing drugs over a long period of time in MLB.
In ARod’s statement that was made yesterday, he said that he had never used PED’s nor had he tested positive. Last I checked, steroids aren’t supposed to affect your memory…because it’s very possible that ARod forgot this story from nearly five years ago.
“I did take a banned substance. And for that, I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”
There’s your smoking gun, if you really need one. That’s the “phrase that pays” if you will, and there’s no real getting around what he said there. So let’s get beyond the fact that Rodriguez hasn’t tested positive, because he’s an admitted PED user. But Rodriguez is claiming that he shouldn’t be disciplined by MLB given the fact that he hasn’t tested positive (aside from a 2003 survey test that was supposed to be anonymous). Instead, MLB is throwing the book at him and in fact there is the appearance that perhaps the full weight of the entire steroid era is being thrust onto Alex Rodriguez’s shoulders.
So what gives here…am I showing sympathy for the devil in a sense? Maybe, however again I would have had no problem with a lifetime ban for ARod based on the fact that he did what he did for so long, and on the fact that he lied. However when this crosses over into the law, we’re talking about a totally different story. ARod’s point is that he’s being disciplined for something that on paper he hasn’t done. And that could well be a very compelling argument. What’s legal and what’s right are sometimes two different things. When you have a company or in MLB’s case an organization, the company handbook or in this case the collective-bargaining agreement in effect are the laws of the land. So the short of it is that ARod’s going to sue MLB to get himself re-instituted and his suspension expunged. And quite frankly he has a strong case because on paper he is being treated unfairly, and MLB is in fact violating his rights as laid out in the collective bargaining.
Again, sympathy for the devil, right? Not so fast. If he goes through with his threats to go to court, ARod may well have to take the stand. And if he’s asked if he’s ever used PED’s under cross-examination, what does he say? He would open himself up to a charge of perjury if he stuck by his story of never having used PED’s. This has a Godfather II-like feel when Michael Corleone perjured himself in front of Congress. Fortunately for Don Corleone, he had allies in Sicily who came to his aide. I’m not sure that Alex Rodriguez would be so lucky.
Some of this might sound as “out there” as one of ARod’s PED-assisted home run balls. But when you cross from the playing field into the law, this is what happens. Ultimately, ARod appears willing to rattle the collective-bargaining agreement, and the very foundation of the sport (and possibly the entire sports world) just to prove a point. And as I pointed out above, it’s unclear if it would even work. In order to do the deed, he might have to admit PED use (or face charges or perjury). So in a sense we find ourselves at an impasse…
…but it’s an impasse that could easily be broken. Rodriguez is 38 years old; is it not nearing the time when he might be thinking retirement anyways? I understand that in his mind he’s right and he’s being screwed over, so given that fact it’s natural that he’d want to “clear his name.” But it’s very possible that history would eventually take a kinder view of him if he simply announced his retirement from baseball and exited stage right. I felt it was cowardly when Manny Ramirez in effect did just that, however given what this situation could ultimately do to the game and to the fans, if anything I think ARod would be doing everyone a huge service if he just stepped away. For the most part I’m not in favor of people not having to attest to their wrong-doings, however if it was done for the good of baseball I’d probably applaud it in this case.
What future generations should take away from this is that drug use and lying are NEVER justifiable. However making an example out of someone, while sometimes a good thing, can also lead to a bad place if done over-zealously. Even when you’re right in doing it, the line of morality can often become blurred.