Tick Tick Tick
The rumors concerning Alex Rodriguez are flying fast and furious now that Ryan Braun has accepted a 65 game suspension. Unnamed sources say that MLB will seek a 150 game suspension if no deal with ARod is worked out, others say MLB might even seek a permanent ban. As I’ve written before, I still don’t think it’s reasonably likely that MLB can make a suspension of more than 50 games stick with a neutral arbitrator. That Ryan Braun may have agreed to a 65-game suspension shouldn’t be relevant from a legal perspective.
What I think is really going on here is that MLB is letting leak information that they will seek some enormous suspension in order to get leverage in the negotiations that are almost certainly going on with Rodriguez’s representatives right now. MLB has nothing to lose by asking for an extremely long or permanent suspension — whether they ask an arbitrator to uphold a 65 game suspension or a life-time ban isn’t going to change the legal issues and arguments before the arbitrator much.
On the other hand, arbitrators (or, for that matter, judges) don’t always make rational or fair decisions, and labor arbitration decisions are difficult to overturn. That MLB might ask for a 150-game or permanent suspension has to give ARod and his legal representatives pause, if only because an arbitrator might “split the baby” and uphold a longer suspension than if MLB asked for a 100-game suspension.
At the same time, ARod appears to be firing his own shots back across MLB’s brow. Unnamed sources say Rodriguez has no intention to settle MLB’s claims against him and intends to appeal any suspension that MLB tries to impose. He has apparently hired the attorney, David Cornwell, who helped Ryan Braun beat MLB in arbitration over Braun’s late 2011 positive drug test. Cornwell is described as a “bulldog” who prefers litigation to settlement.
Needless to say, the fact that Braun roled over so quickly and accepted a 65 game suspension doesn’t look good for ARod on the evidence front, because everyone is pretty well sure that if MLB had that much evidence against Braun, MLB has got even more evidence against ARod. In light of this strong assumption, more unnamed sources have been cited for the proposition that ARod only hires and retains people that tell him what he wants to hear, i.e., that he’s out of touch with the reality of the situation.
Again, all of this may simply be posturing to let MLB know that it will be difficult and expensive to impose a suspension if a deal on terms acceptable to ARod isn’t reached. Rodriguez certainly has the funds at his disposal litigate, litigate and litigate some more if no deal is cut. In any event, no suspension is going to become effective at least until an arbitration decision issues and any appeals of the arbitration decision to the courts have run their course.
In the meantime, there is yet more drama regarding whether the Yankees are preventing Rodriguez from returning to the major league roster. The story, as I currently understand it, is that the Yankees promoted Rodriguez to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to continue his rehabilitation assignment on July 18. Rodriguez played three AAA games and then complained of tightness in his quadriceps muscle, which has prevented him from playing any further games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Rodriguez went to see the Yankees’ doctor at New York Presbyterian hospital, an MRI was taken and the doctor said the Rodriguez had a grade-1 quad strain, an injury which, according to the Yankees, typically takes ten days to two weeks to heal. Now, a few days later, Rodriguez says he’s ready to play and has apparently had another doctor review the MRI and say that it does not show a quad strain.
More unnamed sources say that Rodriguez and his representatives think the Yankees are trying to keep him off the major league roster, and Brian Cashman has now accused ARod of violating the collective bargaining agreement by consulting with a second doctor without first advising the Yankees he intended to do so. It all sounds a little crazy.
One thing now seems certain, though: when and if MLB suspends ARod and makes it stick, or if MLB and ARod reach agreement on a suspension of, let’s say, 75 or 80 games, the Yankees are going to try to find a way to cancel the rest of ARod’s contract. While it seems highly unlikely that a court will rule in favor of such an attempt by the Yankees, the team doesn’t appear to have a lot to lose, except attorneys’ fees, by giving it a try.
Also, while the Yankees’ best possible scenario would be having ARod decide he can’t physically play any more so that the Yankees’ insurance policy on ARod’s contract would kick in, ARod’s made it pretty clear that he plans to play in the majors again.