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Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension is crazy and should be reduced

Aug 5, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT

The MLBPA’s official statement on the suspensions of the Biogenesis players is something I can totally agree with: the 50-game suspensions make sense given that all involved were first time drug offenders who agreed, when they chose not to appeal, that MLB had the goods on them. But Alex Rodriguez‘s 211-game suspension is crazy and it should be reduced.

It’s crazy for a number of reasons.

One simple argument is that A-Rod is receiving discipline for the first time under the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA). The JDA calls for suspensions of 50 games, 100 games or life. A strict constructionist of the JDA could very easily say that A-Rod, as a first offender, should get 50 games, full stop.  Now, I’m not naive. I don’t think that argument will necessarily work. Indeed, the head of the union himself said, for some reason, that the 50-100-life rubric does not apply to Biogenesis cases. I’m not sure why he’d admit that, but I do feel like if that argument had any weight it would have been made a lot more forcefully before now. Still: it’s not an argument I’d abandon if I was A-Rod’s lawyer.

MORE: A-Rod on appeal:’I’m fighting for my life’

A more compelling argument: 211 games is the most arbitrary number imaginable, and arbitrators of employer-employee agreements tend not to like arbitrariness.

The Joint Drug Agreement employs a unit of measurement for drug discipline: games. MLB may make an impassioned and persuasive case that Alex Rodriguez was a horrible wrongdoer, but they clearly chose this discipline based on how long they wanted to see him gone — this season and all of next — and simply calculated how many games that covered. In this sense it was entirely arbitrary and made little effort to match up the severity of the acts with the severity of the punishment. If it happened last week he’d get 217 games? If it happened next week he’d get 205? For the same conduct? It speaks to an unreasonable standard of discipline, even if it happens to go after unreasonably bad behavior.

Let’s talk about that behavior. A-Rod’s Biogenesis case has been the subject of countless leaks over the past several months, and most of those leaks have spoken non-specifically of awful, awful things. We don’t know how awful. Maybe it’s really, really bad! Obstruction of the investigation. Maybe some sort of luring of other players to Tony Bosch’s clinic. We really don’t know.  But we do know that for 211 games to stick, those acts have to be more than four times worse than some other player’s drug use, right? That’s how MLB got to its arbitrary number, right?

MORE: Rodriguez goes 1-for-4 in first game back with Yanks

I don’t know what MLB’s evidence is, but I do know this much: the historic pattern of A-Rod coverage has been to take what he actually did, multiply it by about a million times in terms of severity and report it as the worst thing that ever happened.  Puffing up A-Rod’s evil works with tabloid readers, talk radio callers and the “A-Rod is the devil” folks, but it’s unlikely to work well with an arbitrator. So if that pattern is happening once again, it may be a much closer case than many are portraying.

None of that means Alex Rodriguez didn’t do anything wrong. None of that means that Alex Rodriguez will succeed on his appeal. But from where I’m sitting, Major League Baseball’s 211-game suspension looks hard to defend, and it’s hard to blame Rodriguez for going after it on appeal.

152 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. bbk1000 - Aug 6, 2013 at 5:38 AM

    HAHA, relax…..211 games, it’s such an arbitrary number it will never fly, just another silly mistake by Selig….

    • greenmtnboy31 - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:32 AM

      Selig is the one guy who should get a lifetime ban. He’s has been the single worst thing to happen to baseball in my lifetime.

    • pjmarn6 - Aug 6, 2013 at 7:25 PM

      How did I know after reading the title of the article and before reading the author’s name that the write would be the GRAND APOLOGIST Craig Calcaterra!
      Let’s have Craig Calcaterra banned for life!
      Let’s have a vote how many people who want a heart surgeon who cheated and lied his way through medical school and residency operate on them?
      I am willing to bet that even the great apologist would want the best, most honest and best qualified doctor to operate on him for a serious condition.
      What do you say CRAIG? Would you want a doctor who cheated, lied and performed illegally to be your surgeon?

      Aug 5, 2013, 4:25 PM EDT

      • flavadave10 - Aug 7, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        So now we’re comparing professional athletes to doctors?

  2. jfk69 - Aug 6, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Employee walks into a hearing with his rep. His rep tells him. Listen. I know the punishment is a three day suspension. But in your case they want 30 days off. Employee asks ..Why?
    The rep answers. The owners rep Bud Selig wants it that way. Contract be damned. He is also retiring and his tough guy legacy is at stake. Don’t worry. I am friends with his daughter who really runs the company

    • pjmarn6 - Aug 10, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      Nobody here wants to honestly compare doped up baseball players to non doped up baseball players. Might as well compare doctors to baseball players for all the good this hogwash is doing. Appears that most of these “FANCIFUL FANS” want to see cheats playing against non cheats.

  3. qball59 - Aug 6, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    I think Selig’s conduct in this matter is even worse than A-rod’s. MLB has a JDA that was agreed on by the player’s union and the owners.

    If MLB wants to have any credibility at all on this issue, they need to stick with the agreement.

    Regardless of what anyone thinks of A-rod as a person, if I’m the arbitrator, I’m reducing the suspension to 25 games, not because I think A-rod is a paragon of virtue (by most indications, he’s not), but to punish Bud Selig for violating the JDA by issuing an utterly asinine suspension.

    Selig’s excessive, vindictive treatment of A-rod is beginning to make him look like Roger Goodell’s evil twin.

    • greenmtnboy31 - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:33 AM

      And it very well may end up making A-Rod look like the victim. Selig is a fool.

    • fanofthegame79 - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      I agree. He should have had a 100-game suspension.

    • pjmarn6 - Aug 6, 2013 at 7:28 PM

      Rodriguez should be banned for life. What does he have left to improve the quality of the game?

    • ilovegspot - Aug 8, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      How do you know what the evidence is? It looks as though he had been juicing since the beginning of his career and there is a recording of aroid coercing another player.

  4. My Myasthenia Journey - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:07 AM

    Craig, you are spot on. I can’t stand A-Rod and that’s not a good reason to go overboard on the suspension. 50 games sounds right to me.

  5. mrznyc - Aug 6, 2013 at 8:10 AM

    Stop with the “before is was against Major League Baseball’s rules,” it has always been against baseballs rules to take prescription drugs without a prescription. Period!!!!

  6. dexterismyhero - Aug 6, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    If he tried to buy the evidence aka obstruct, then his suspension should stick.

    Just put him in a room with a big mirror. He’ll be fine with that.

  7. kitnamania13 - Aug 6, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    I realize that with the insane amount of coverage on this story, many sportswriters will look for a cute angle to stand out from the crowd, but let’s not forget that Rodriguez was the one who cheated and lied repeatedly. He’s been doing this continuously for over a decade. We’re not talking about one incident. We’re talking about a sociopathic and pathological need to cheat. His appeal will likely reveal even more wrongdoing of which the public is not yet aware.

  8. byjiminy - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    Craig, I don’t understand why you’re being so cagey about MLB “maybe” having evidence he obstructed the investigation, when you wrote an article about it yourself, saying the NY Times reported A-Rod tried to buy the evidence through an intermediary:

    Obviously that in itself is not legal proof he did it, but when did it become taboo to talk about? Were there subsequent stories I missed in which that charge was questioned?

    My assumption was that the extra time was probably related to that allegation, and that they have solid evidence they think will hold up with the arbitrator. I get most of my baseball news from Hardball Talk, and I’m confused why your story seems to be changing. Why don’t you discuss the legal merits of the known situation, as you’ve previously reported it, instead of some hypothetical straw man charges made artificially vague by omission?

    I’d be curious to hear the legal ramifications of obstruction, and whether they merit a 167 game suspension. But outraged questions about why he is being treated differently than everyone else, when you know why and have previously published on it, seem disingenuous at best.

  9. sillec28 - Aug 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    I think we all know that Rodriguez’ suspension is based not just on his use of PEDs but also on the fact that he’s lied so much about it over such a long period of time, not to mention that he continued to use them even after he was outed once before, plus the possibility/likelihood that he tried to buy the evidence. I haven’t read the JDA and don’t know a lot about its terms. But if the union head said it doesn’t apply to this kind of case I have to think it doesn’t. I know of no reason why the union would be in favor of Selig violating it.

  10. messire3124 - Aug 10, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    my buddy’s ex-wife makes $65/hour on the computer. She has been unemployed for 5 months but last month her paycheck was $18326 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here

  11. dukeearl - Aug 11, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Not sure why people are getting hung up on the number. Would it be better if they said remainder of this season and the next?
    The rest is mere semantics.

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