Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season and any postseason games by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz. The decision came on Saturday afternoon.
Horowitz trimmed only 49 games off the original 211-game suspension given to Rodriguez by Major League Baseball for his use of performance-enhancing drugs and involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.
Rodriguez immediately announced his intention to appeal in federal court.
Rodriguez, 38, played only 44 games in 2013 after appealing his suspension. He is signed through the 2017 season.
His career could be over given the long break, health woes, and possibility of the Yankees releasing him or seeking a legal termination of his contract. Under a loophole in major league rules, Rodriguez could attempt to participate in spring training while his case is being appealed. The Yankees almost certainly would try to prevent that.
The immediate question becomes whether Rodriguez and his team of lawyers can convince a judge to stay the suspension and allow him to play. History suggests the courts would side with a collectively bargained agreement.
For the Red Sox and AL East competitors, this is bad news. The Yankees will save the $27.5 million Rodriguez was to be paid in 2014 and free themselves of a significant distraction. Rodriguez also is six home runs shy of a $6 million bonus for matching the 660 career home runs hit by Willie Mays.
The Yankees could use the money to improve their roster or keep their payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold. The Yankees will be responsible for only $3.2 million of Rodriguez's salary in their 2014 computation.
Major League Baseball's statement read:
“For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights. While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”
The MLB Players Association also released a statement:
"The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the arbitration panel's decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez's unprecedented 211-game suspension. We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision."
Notable in those remarks was, "We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached." The union doesn't seem interested in supporting Rodriguez's appeal.
Rodriguez's statement, issued on Facebook:
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from Day One. This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.
"I have been clear that I did not use performance-enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
"I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal."
There is no evidence that MLB is seeking to abolish guaranteed contracts or institute lifetime bans for single violations.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: Here is the statement from the Yankees:
“The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel.”