It’s been interesting to see how fast the story regarding Alex Rodriguez’ and numerous other professional athletes’ involvement with Biogenesis, the South Florida purveyor of all compounds performance enhancing, has moved. Numerous sports writers are already predicting that the allegations, if substantiated, will mean the end of A-Fraud’s career.
Another big topic of conversation is the Yankees’ reported hope that they will somehow get out of the $114 million contractual obligation they owe to Rodriguez over the next five seasons. Frankly, I don’t see that happening.
The Yankees squeaked about Jason Giambi’s contract when his steroids use came to light, but backed down before going any further than the talking-about-it stage. Since Rodriguez signed his ridiculous contract extension (more on that below) before the 2008 season, well more than a year before Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) came out during the 2009 season, it is extremely doubtful that the contract extension includes any language directly addressing the possible voiding of the contract for PED use.
$114 million is enough to motivate any potential litigant to call in the army of attorneys, but if the Yankees think they can extract a favorable settlement from Rodriguez (and his agent Scott Boras, who presumably gets a cut out of each year of the contract), they are kidding themselves. It is extremely unlikely Rodriguez would even have to pay his own attorneys’ fees in any such litigation.
Instead, the players association will foot the bill for the best legal representation available, because that is the reason the players association exists in the first place. When it comes to owners’ contract obligations to players, the players’ association will see to it that the players get paid, period.
I have no sympathy for the Yankees whatsoever. I still don’t understand how Scott Boras is able to convince teams to sign contracts which not only provide for record-setting guaranteed payments, but which also let the players opt out after the first few seasons and seek even bigger contracts.
The whole reason that an Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia or a Prince Fielder gets a long-term, record-setting contract is the hope that the player will be so good the first half of the contract that it justifies great overpayment during the second half of the deal by which time the player has gotten old. Agreeing to allow the player to opt out and renegotiate after the first few years of said record-setting contract go according to plan is insane.
Still, the Yankees’ profligacy is good for MLB as a whole. The only reason the Yankees fail to buy the World Series title every other season by signing all the best free agents is the fact that they waste so much money on contracts like A-Fraud’s and Sabathia’s. Even the Yankees’ bankroll is not unlimited, and locking tens of millions of dollars a year into underperforming contracts like these at least brings them down to the level of the next ten or so high-revenue teams.
There’s also talk about the Yankees hoping that Rodriguez’ hip injury will somehow morph into a career-ending injury, such that the insurance policies the Yankees have taken out on A-Fraud’s contract will cover all or most of his future salaries. I don’t see that happening either.
First of all, insurance companies don’t make their money by blindly paying out on claims. Also, even assuming the insurers could be forced to pay, usually through very expensive litigation (the lawyers always get paid), the Yankees’ insurance rates on other player contracts would go through the roof. If the insurers can’t make their money on the front end, they’re damn sure going to try to get it on the back end.
The fact that so many sportswriters are predicting the end of ARod’s career may well create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Realistically, the only discipline that can be imposed on Rodriguez under the collective bargaining agreement in force for major league players is a 50 game suspension, provided that the evidence of Rodriguez’s PEDs use is sufficient to support a finding that Commissioner Selig has “just cause” to suspend Rodriguez for PEDs use. “Just cause” is certainly far less than “beyond a reasonable doubt”, the standard of proof for criminal cases, but we have already seen Ryan Braun escape punishment for PEDs use because MLB failed to follow its own testing standards.
However, baseball is nothing but a form of entertainment which relies entirely on the goodwill of its fans to sustain revenues. Since the owners don’t really know exactly what the fans want or will tolerate, the sports press acts as a surrogate, both as a voice of the average fan and also as a generator of fan opinion. If the sportswriters are predicting the end of Rodriguez’ career, don’t imagine for a second that the Yankees are listening intently.
Finally, I can’t help but notice that the current brouhaha is likely only such a big deal because A-Fraud isn’t performing on the field like he did a couple of years ago. Rodriguez was linked to another human growth hormone purveyor in 2010, but everyone more or less took his denials of improper conduct for granted, despite his many previous known lies on the subject.
Now that Rodriguez is merely a slightly better than average player facing a long recovery from hip surgery, suddenly the Yankees, MLB and the World are more ready to lower the boom. Well, that’s baseball and the good old U. S. of A. We love a winner, but we also love to see our heroes fall.