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UPDATE: A-Rod denies that he’s using the “I had no idea what I was taking” defense

Oct 2, 2013, 11:03 AM EDT

Alex Rodriguez

UPDATE: A-Rod’s team is denying the Daily News’ report:

 

11:03 AM: Or: Great Moments in Unoriginal and Implausible Excuses. From the Daily News:

According to a source with knowledge of Rodriguez’s ongoing arbitration hearings, the embattled Yankee and his lawyers have presented a case based partly on the idea that Rodriguez believed the substances he procured from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic were innocent legal supplements.

Given that Major League Baseball is still presenting its affirmative case it’s unclear whether this is actually a pillar of Rodriguez’s defense or if it was merely mentioned in passing by one of his lawyers. Regardless, it will not likely do much for him in the court of public opinion. We’ve heard this with Barry Bonds and Rogers Clemens and it rings pretty hollow, especially given that the suppliers of these allegedly legal supplements were shady dudes who gave injections in hotel rooms and private homes in the dark of night.

That said, there could be a reason to offer up such an argument, even if it’s weakly offered. With no blood or urine testing evidence against A-Rod around, MLB has to establish that he actually and knowingly took something illegal. They’ll do it with Anthony Bosch’s word. Combatting that with an “I was duped” argument may seem weak, but so too is Bosch’s word compared to, say, a positive drug test. In other words, it’s weak, but it’s something.

Moreover, a big part of A-Rod’s defense is that Bosch is a liar, and it would be consistent for him to say that everything that comes out of Bosch’s mouth is a lie. If you say he lied about ten things but then admit, well, yes, the stuff he gave me was illegal and I knew it, you pretty much have no defense on that point and you’re helping out his credibility, even if it’s in only a small way.

Will this persuade the arbitrator that A-Rod actually was duped? I seriously doubt it. But it could prevent the arbitrator from concluding that A-Rod’s knowing culpability was certain — a 100% lock — and for every little sliver of doubt inserted into the record, the basis for hitting A-Rod with the most severe penalty possible is undermined in some way.

Oh, and one other thing: it could cause Major League Baseball to alter its case a bit to counter such a claim. To spend time on the “knowingly taking” part of the case that could be spent doing something else. To, even for a few moments, put them on defense. It’s a tactic as old as the legal system itself. And it still exists because it works sometimes. Just ask the L.A. County prosecutors who spent months defending the forensic procedures in the O.J Simpson case. Go ask the MLB officials who were unable to make Ryan Braun‘s first suspension stick last year. Was it plausible that the crime lab and a drug test collector tainted samples? Nope. But it put people on their heels for a bit.

Upshot: crappy P.R. move, cynical tactical move but understandable legal move.

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