by John Furgele
The ruling is in and Alex Rodriguez, barring a federal court miracle, will not play Major League Baseball in 2014. My advice to the beleaguered Rodriguez is to stop fighting and accept the punishment. The more you fight, the more you’ll have to pay your lawyers, lawyers that are not cheap.
Let me defend Rodriguez for a moment. When the Biogenesis suspensions came down and Rodriguez appealed, he had every right to do so. The public ate him up, and many facebookers and twitters called him a disgrace and assumed his guilt. They hid behind the “all the other players accepted their suspensions, why didn’t A-Rod?” That did surprise me that the other 13 players accepted suspensions without appealing like A-Rod did. Of course, the other players received 50 game suspensions; A-Rod 211. The Jhonny Peraltas and Nelson Cruzs could have appealed and kept playing, but they took the 50 games and were then eligible for the postseason. A-Rod’s 162 game suspension handed down by arbitrator Frederic Horowitz includes the postseason, something that Peralta’s and Cruz’s didn’t. We know that was a joke. For Peralta, he took the suspension, then came back to help the Tigers reach the American League Championship Series and in the offseason, was rewarded with a four year $52 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.
In a way, I feel sad for Alex Rodriguez. It’s easy to cast him as the ultimate villain and not to feel sorry for him and to say he got what he deserved, and you are right for saying so. I don’t feel sorry for A-Rod, I feel bad for him. When he signed with the Seattle Mariners at age 18, he was tabbed as the next immortal baseball player. At 19, he made his debut and at age 20, he was an everyday player. There were enormous expectations and A-Rod, at first, a reflective, fun and thoughtful kid, began to crack at the pressure and those expectations. In 1997, baseball numbers were going through the roof. Guys like Rafael Palmerio and Luis Gonzalez went from 15 to 20 homers per year to 47 and 57. Take Palmerio. Early in his career, he homered once every 27.6 at bats. Later, he had a season where he homered once every 10.7 at bats.
What was A-Rod (and for that matter Bonds) supposed to do? They could stay clean and have those .298, 33, 115 seasons, or they could take some PEDs and have .330 55 147 seasons, like some of their counterparts. These are competitive players, ruthless competitors. You don’t make it the majors without being this way. Everybody is quick to accuse the cheater, call him a disgrace, but what about the sport itself? Baseball, and football, basketball and hockey today, looked the other way as old records became replaced by cartoon characters and cartoon type statistics.
Rodriguez desperately wanted to keep his place as the best player in the game of baseball. That and tons of self-doubt, and self-esteem issues seemed to plague him. He was married to what appeared to be an educated, successful woman with whom he had two daughters with, yet, his insecurities led him to infidelity. After admitting that he had taken PEDs, once he felt he was slipping, he sought out Anthony Bosch of Biogenesis to help him get strong and healthy again. I feel bad that A-Rod felt so much pressure, because love him or hate him, that’s tough pressure. It’s easy to be a fan, who works 40 hours a week for $45,000 and say, if you were making $25 million a year, you’d be clean, but you’re not the player, you’re not Rodriguez or Bonds or any of the others.
These players believed that it was worth it. Get caught, serve 50 games and next time do a better job and don’t get caught. The hope was that it would blow over and once they retired, the Hall of Fame would come calling. But, it doesn’t look like these players are going to get that call. It seems that the voters, who said nothing as players bulked up, as players like Bret Boone went from nine homer seasons to 37, have awakened and are now punishing the cheaters. And, the more A-Rod stays in the limelight, the less his chance of getting even 50 percent of the vote.
Baseball is held to a higher standard because those numbers are timeless. We know that Sammy Baugh would have trouble playing in the today’s NFL, but we think Sandy Koufax would be a 20 game winner in today’s baseball. Players like Rodriguez and McGwire and Sosa and Bonds have ruined those numbers and there is nothing baseball can do to fix that.
Rodriguez will struggle with life after baseball. What is he going to do? He needs the attention, he needs to be in the spotlight and because of this, he will probably report to spring training because it will keep him relevant. He will be lost without the game he has played at the Major League level since 1995.
The Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League are said to be interested in Rodriguez’s services in 2014 and because they’re not affiliated with Major League Baseball, Rodriguez could play there if the Yankees allow him to. My guess is that the Yankees would and hope that he injures himself so they could void the remaining $61 million on his deal, so the odds of Rodriguez stepping on the field in Islip, NY remains remote. But, if Rodriguez truly loves baseball, he would think about it. He would get what he wants: a chance to play, a chance to put up numbers and a chance to be in the spotlight each and every day. He has become a sideshow and I worry what he will do when the sideshow is gone. Some players can leave the game and do well, others struggle mightily.
Rodriguez it appears is at the end of the line. He says he will appeal, but the federal courts are likely not going to hear his case. The process seems adequate. Rodriguez appealed, and both he and MLB took their case to an arbitrator, an arbitrator approved by both the players union and Major League Baseball. The union says that it has accepted Horowitz’s decision ditto for Major League Baseball. Both sides did put a but in their statements. The unions says the suspension is too long, MLB says it’s too short. However, in both statements, each side has said that they considered the process fair and the case closed and is ready to move on and move forward.
Let’s hope A-Rod feels the same way