8/1/13, "Baseball’s Bullying Makes It Tempting to Root for Rodriguez,
" NY Times, William C. Rhoden
Rodriguez, the Yankees
star third baseman, has been linked over the last few months to
Biogenesis of America, the now-defunct Florida anti-aging clinic
suspected of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
According to people briefed on the negotiations between Rodriguez and
Major League Baseball, Selig has discussed several options, ranging from
a lifetime ban to a suspension that would begin this season and end
after next season. Rodriguez has never been known as a player who cares
about anyone besides himself. But if there were ever a time for A-Rod —
and the once-powerful players association — to step up and fight the
impending suspension, that time is now. Rodriguez should challenge the
credibility of the evidence. If Major League Baseball has compelling evidence, force the league to show it.
There are no vials of evidence. There are no eyewitnesses to Rodriguez’s
performance-enhancing drug use. Investigators have the word of
two questionable characters connected to Biogenesis, one of whom, the
former owner, Anthony Bosch, once impersonated a doctor. Investigators
may indeed have compelling evidence — phone records, shipping receipts,
e-mails. If they do, A-Rod and the players association should force
those investigators to reveal what they have gathered.
This exhaustive investigation is less about A-Rod and
performance-enhancing drugs than about power and control. Major League
Baseball is attempting to impose its will on high-profile players by
possibly circumventing due process to make an example of them.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun was suspended without pay for the
remainder of the season for violating the league’s drug policy in
connection with his link to Biogenesis. Braun did not challenge the
evidence and went down without a fight, agreeing to lose the rest of
this season’s salary.
Braun made a pragmatic choice. The Brewers owe him money — lots of
money. He signed a five-year, $105 million extension. He is injured, and
his team is in last place. Braun got off on a technicality last year,
and this year baseball was not going to rest until it got Braun. It made
sense for Braun to accept the suspension and come back next season
refreshed, healed and, of course, repentant.
A season-and-a-half suspension would be a career-ender for A-Rod, who
turned 38 on Saturday. Beyond that, allowing Rodriguez to be bullied
into a suspension sets a terrible precedent and weakens the players
association’s ability to fight owners on the next big issue.
Four years ago, Rodriguez acknowledged using performance-enhancing
substances while he was with the Texas Rangers from 2001 to 2003. He has
denied using them since. A-Rod has never flunked a drug test. How could
the players association allow Rodriguez to be kicked out of baseball
and remain credible?
The aggressive pursuit of Rodriguez fits into baseball’s recent patterns
of demonizing unpopular players and casting them as the faces of the
Fifteen years ago, baseball enjoyed its banquet years, with Mark McGwire
and Sammy Sosa vying for the single-season home run record. Baseballs
were flying out of stadiums, and turnstiles where whirling at a record
Baseball life was lush.
McGwire, with Selig’s blessing, was hired as the St. Louis Cardinals’
hitting coach. Andy Pettitte, who admitted to using human growth
hormone, pitches every fifth day for the Yankees.
A-Rod is baseball’s latest villain. Not so long ago, he was being hailed
as the knight who would save us from Barry Bonds.
You might ask, Aren’t you interested in getting steroid users off the
field? Frankly, that is not an issue that keeps me up at night.
When a thug on the street uses a gun to commit a crime, when a junkie is
picked up for using drugs, the cogent question is, How are guns and
drugs allowed to flood the community?
Similarly, baseball, beginning with the commissioner, should want to
know about these distribution networks. Instead, baseball puts on
parades. The commissioner is fond of the dog-and-pony-show approach.
Rather than working with players to identify manufacturing and
distribution networks, baseball works with Biogenesis-like drug dealers
to hunt down high-profile users and trots them out before a cheering
Labels: Alex Rodriguez should push back against MLB bully tactics says NY Times columnist