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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. officialgame - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    There can only be one reason this so called baseball writer has been defending the likes of ARod, Braun any many others caught with PED’s. He is on their payroll.

    • deaninajijic - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM

      If that wasn’t meant to be a joke your a goofball!

      • ilovegspot - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        no joke and you are the goofball supporter.

    • katthy000 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      Amen! Something is surely wrong if someone disagrees with punishment! He won’t admit that he did something WRONG! His behavior is disgusting.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      Thankfully, I believe all Calcaterrorists do it rogue.

  2. deaninajijic - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    If somebody but Selig was at the top all these leaks and inconsistencies, including hardly any positive test results and a bunch of confusing statements by Bosch and paying all his expenses and not suing him would never have happened. Selig’s gotta go! Maybe somebody new can fix the Umpire situation as well. The owners only keep him because he was one of them and they’re making a ton of money. Integrity of the game my ass!!

    • ilovegspot - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      Where are the Braun leaks then????

      • deaninajijic - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:16 PM

        Not sure what you mean. Stuff about Brauns been coming out forever it seems.

      • ilovegspot - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:12 PM

        That’s because Braun has been roiding forever or at lease starting at the University of Miami. The rumors began back then. I’m talking about details specific to what MLB had on him this time. I hope it gets leaked along with Aroid’s details.

    • bball1950 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      There is no integrity of the game. Steroids make better players which brings more revenue.

  3. eatitfanboy - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    The number is as long as it is for the same reason prosecutors always charge defendants with 100 different counts when they are initially arraigned or indicted. It’s a cushion against a future plea bargain. MLB knew an appeal was coming and wanted to slap as big a suspension on him as they could so that they could negotiate it down a little and still get Arod out of baseball for a significant period of time. I’d say this winds up at about 100 games.

  4. cowartsh - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    I hope it gets knocked down to 50 games so the Yankees have to pay as much as possible of that awful contract they gave him

    • sunderlanding - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:06 PM

      I think the team should have to pay the wages of a suspended player (for PEDs) to a charity or such. If we punish the teams as well they’ll put in measures to cut down on this shit. We need to make a culture where no one wants to do PEDs, or even have someone who might on their team.

      • clemente2 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM

        Maybe, though it hurts a team for actions it might not be able to control. Players are adult employees, not slaves.

        If money is to be contributed, it should go to the old timers’ pension plans, still underfunded.

      • sunderlanding - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        Sure wherever, but I think this is a case of a team who didn’t care if he used PEDs and didn’t care if he got suspended, because they knew it wouldn’t hurt them. Meanwhile they got to win a World Series with him.

  5. banger60 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:07 PM

    oh, crystal ball, tell us the outcome of all this, damn,damn,damn!

  6. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    It’s blatantly clear that Selig is going extra hard on him because A-Rod is an easy punching bag and because Selig is DESPERATE to give off an image of a guy who cleaned up the sport rather than the reality that he sat back and enjoyed the benefits until it absolutely had to be addressed. We all knew it was going on for years before it became a big deal, but only when he couldn’t ignore it anymore did he actually do anything about it.

    Solid strategy too, because at the end of the day not a single person will feel sorry for A-Rod.

    • bball1950 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      15 years of collecting a salary and now ready to retire makes Selig try to clean up his game.

  7. ilovegspot - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Lets hope tha tMLB has a mountain of evidence against Aroid to provide to the Arbitrator and the suspension sticks.

    • gloccamorra - Aug 5, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      That’s what MLB isn’t giving us – evidence. Announcements of penalties with no evidence to back up those penalties is the mother of all pink elephants.

  8. sgtr0c - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    Pete Rose is banned for life for betting against his own team, it was cheating. Taking PEDs to improve your preformance is cheating. A-rod did it twice, 211 games sounds like a bargin.

    I bet Bud wishes he could go back to the days of just fighting Rose for re-enstatement.

    • aceshigh11 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Where is the evidence that Rose bet against his own team?

    • indaburg - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      Although there are some who believe that Rose bet against the Reds, he has only admitted to betting in favor of his own team. Regardless, baseball makes no distinction between betting for or against your team.

      “Rule 21 MISCONDUCT, (d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES, Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.” There is nothing arbitrary about this punishment. Rose knew the penalty was severe. He did it anyway.

      The rules state a first time offender of the CBA receive a 50 game suspension. Selig et al are saying Rodriguez s being punished more because his crimes are worse. They need to say what these violations are, what evidence they have, and how they arrived at what appears to be on the surface, a completely arbitrary number (aka they pulled it out of their ass because they hate the mofo.)

    • jdrew506 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:51 PM

      Can you say Bahhhhhh, cause you are a sheep to MLB. You say A-rod did it twice, but where is that evidence. He admitted he took PED’s up until 2003 when PED was not outlawed by the MLB and he has yet to fail a drug test. As much as we would all like to see a level playing field but is it really cheating if the league not only allowed it but watched it happen and did nothing because if brought fans back to MLB and made them all lots and lots of money in the process? There is a CBA and JDA in place for things like this and until it is written into those legal binding agreements it is allowed. Furthermore the JDA states first offence for taking PED’s is 50 games and as far as I can tell this would be his first offence even though he still has never failed a drug test. Just because Big Bad Bud and many others don’t like A-rod does not mean that they can make up rules just because they want too.

      You might say, “but its in the best interest of the game” and that too would be a bunch of Bull because if that was the case all the players that cheated would be banned for life and then the great game of baseball would have ended a long time ago because there have been players cheating the game since the beginning of the game.

  9. bball1950 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    A-rod will not go down easily. He knows what has been going on in baseball and possibly other sports(NFL , NBS, tennis,etc.). Drug use is prevalent and has been overlooked until now.

  10. jgillmeister - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:12 PM

    Strike 1 – Confession of prior use of PEDs
    Strike 2 – Evidence of current use
    Strike 3 – Witness tampering and attempts to destroy evidence – attempt to subvert the MLB/MLBPA contract
    Life time Ban on the above basis, possible, but not likely to be upheld. Remainder of 2013 and all of 2014 seasons, reasonable. He still gets the last 3 years of his contract, probably for sitting at home and watching the Yankees on TV, since its doubtful he recovers the skill level necessary. Since he’s no longer injured, the Yankees don’t have am out on his contract.

    • jdrew506 - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Strike 1- Not realizing that he confessed to using PED’s up until 2003 before it was banned by the MLB in the JDA in 2006
      Strike 2- Saying the Evidence of current use without a failed drug test
      Strike 3- Being a sheep to Bud Selig in believing he tampered with witnesses and attempted to destroy evidence without seeing any proof of this and just listening to the media and MLB without using your own brain to think for yourself.
      Maybe you should have a lifetime ban from making any comments on HBT because you are a sheep.

      • ilovegspot - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:15 PM

        jd drew is just another sucker apologist.

      • jdrew506 - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:33 PM

        Hey ilovegspot, I bet you were one of the sheep that was cheering McGuire and Sosa when they were chasing the Home Run records too. I have never said I agree with what A-rod has done or has been said to have done. I am just saying that there is a process and agreements between the MLB and the Union and just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you can circumvent the process or the agreements that are in place. Use your own brain and think for yourself. Until the true facts come out in arbitration or in court none of us know what the real facts are.

      • moogro - Aug 5, 2013 at 9:13 PM

        Drew defeats spots.

  11. DelawarePhilliesFan - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Michael Weiner: Why not just give 100 games, and have 100 be louder?
    (pause)
    Bud Selig: These go up to 211

    • moogro - Aug 5, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      lol

  12. cosmoman11 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:20 PM

    It’s as if the length of the suspension was determined by some senile, old fool. Oh wait, it was.

  13. earpaniac - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    If you don’t cheat, you don’t have to worry if the punishment is unfair or not.

    • jwbiii - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:19 PM

      J.C. Romero may disagree.

  14. poprox13 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    as far as I can tell, the only thing that needs to be reduced should be arods bra size

  15. William Rogers - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    I am not sure….Has he ever tested positive for banned substances? If he has not, this is screwed up…They are not using the best interest in baseball scenario so that leaves the JDA…which is clearly 50 games for the first positive test.

    • nbjays - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:55 PM

      He failed two tests back in 2003, but there were no penalties or punishments for a failed test until 2004.

    • nbjays - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:57 PM

      Of course, along with his failed tests in 2003, more than 5% of all MLB players tested failed as well, which is why mandatory testing and penalties were brought in the following year.

  16. smackingfools - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    Funny how an athlete is fake and he isn’t liked by anybody. But, justin Beiber and Kanye west are 2 of the fakest and worse people on the planet and still sell millions.

  17. joerevs300 - Aug 5, 2013 at 5:59 PM

    The only thing that will satisfy Craig is if:

    * A-Rod is not suspended at all. You said: “None of this means A-Rod didn’t do anything wrong”. So what exactly DID he do wrong Craig? Get handed a boatload of money and take it? Take performance enhancing drugs and never get caught? Act like an arrogant, rich multi-millionaire?

    How is any of this wrong? Were any of the players who took greenies back in the day wrong too?

    *All the other so-called “cheaters” (Barry Bonds, etc) get into the HOF because hey, there are plenty of other cheaters in there, so let’s just let them all in.

    Might as well just put an (*) beside almost everyone in the HOF then. There’s no way to prove they didn’t take anything and for most of them there’s no way to prove that they did.

    Baseball allows people to continue to cheat. Because the “integrity of the game” is compromised every single solitary game and it has nothing to do with people juicing with steroids, HGH or any of the other 3-5 drugs that we don’t know about. Or are you telling me clubs aren’t using video or other means to steal signals, be it pitches or signs from the dugout, ala “Spygate”?

    Baseball has never been clean, and never will again. So all the words wasted on A-Rod mean nothing. There will be another one, and another one, and another one. Until baseball suspends them for life, it will never stop. The same for all the other major professional sports.

  18. wheels579 - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    The length of the suspension should depend on the evidence, which we haven’t seen, so to me it is impossible to fairly judge the merit of 211 games. To my knowledge, it is not clear how they chose 65 for Braun, who also never officially failed a test and was likewise a first-time offender. The players union approved that suspension, must know what evidence the league has on Alex by now and who knows what they advised him to do? So unless/until any of that is revealed in the appeal process, how can anyone argue what is or isn’t fair?

    • tedwmoore - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:53 PM

      This is true, insofar as it goes: we do not have access to the evidence and so are unable to judge the severity on its merits. But Craig is correct, whatever the merits of this suspension, the duration is arbitrary: 211 games is tethered to the calendar, not A-Rod’s alleged infractions.

  19. thetooloftools - Aug 5, 2013 at 6:37 PM

    Yea… because we all want A-Rod to hang around and continue to taint the game. HE IS A CHEATER. I don’t want him in the game. How can you justify this headline? Defending the indefensible. They need to null and void contracts when PED use is confirmed. I don’t want him anywhere near the Hall Of Fame either as ALL his records are tainted.
    Total P.O.S.

  20. scubagolfjim - Aug 5, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Yes. I agree: Alex Rodriguez‘s 211-game suspension is crazy

    It’s Crazy Because He Should be BANNED For Life.

  21. scubagolfjim - Aug 5, 2013 at 8:25 PM

    Hey Craig… did you also defend Latrell Sprewell because it was his first time choking his coach?

    • moogro - Aug 5, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      Addressing things directly to Craig, all capitals, boldface type, exclamations points….yawn

  22. albertmn - Aug 5, 2013 at 9:08 PM

    I wonder if Selig knows his penalty may eventually be reduced, so he went big. If it ends up cut in half, he would still get over 100 games. Classic negotiation, start high, and you can come down from there. We may never know, but I would guess he was either offered less, or that Selig would have gone less if he negotiated, but I would bet ARod refused to negotiate, trying to call his bluff.

  23. joerevs300 - Aug 5, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    Now I know why I don’t usually comment on this part of the site.

    – Agree with Craig’s take that 211 is too excessive, or that Selig overreached=like
    – Argue that A-Rod got what he deserved and this is the only way a message can be sent to the rest of the cheaters out there=dislike

    That’s fine. Jayson Stark’s piece up on ESPN.com is why even though I don’t necessarily like the Evil Empire of sports, they do have (nearly) the best writers on every single sport locked up.

  24. kgsmith - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    I don’t understand why this jerk had not been banned from the game. Pete Rose , shoeless Joe Jackson.. Both banned for breaking the rules of the game. This is now Alex Rodriguez’s 2nd time getting caught cheating and he gets to speak his suspension.. Not right.

  25. aldante66 - Aug 5, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    I hope for the sake of everybody, once he files his appeal, he gets a quick hearing from and arbitor and this thing is settled. He deserves to sit out a long time. Unlike the others he obstructed the investigation, admitted to using previously, is caught red handed using and tried to recruit others to use. Those are the accusations. 50 games?

    The only reason he wasn’t banned for life is the commish didn’t want to drag baseball into the courts. If A rod goes that direction as some suggested, he may end up missing all of 214 and some of 215.

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