Now that Ryan Braun has become the first marque player in 2013 to serve a suspension for his performance enhancing drug use, the focus is now squarely on Alex Rodriguez. While the Milwaukee Brewer’s franchise player is currently serving a 65-game ban, there is talk that A-Rod is possibly facing a lifetime ban from Major League Baseball if he is in fact linked to the Biogenesis Anti-Aging clinic in Florida. Rodriguez has already admitted to previous PED during his time with the Texas Rangers from 2001-2003. However, since the MLB did not have penalties for positive PED tests at that time, A-Rod was never penalized for his admittance.
As a result, I believe that MLB officials have had it out for A-Rod for quite some time and would love nothing more than to make an example out of him by blackballing one of the game’s superstar players. A-Rod’s nonchalant attitude by openly admitting his previous PED use completely undermined the recent efforts of the MLB to try and clean up the game. So even though A-Rod has never been formally punished for a failed drug test under Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, Rodriguez’s career in baseball may very well be over if there is so much as a shred of evidence linking him to PED use this time around.
This is a very messy and embarrassing situation with lots of sides involved and plenty of blame to go around. So without further ado, let’s assign blame in this PED scandal in order of importance.
1. The Players: Not only did players like Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and others willingly engage in taking banned substances to enhance their on-field production, but most acted like spoiled brats once they were caught, especially Braun. Rather than taking his 50-game suspension and owning up to his initial positive urine test during the 2011 off-season, Braun dragged out the process. The Milwaukee outfielder claimed that his urine sample was tampered with, appealed the decision, and proclaimed that he would “bet his life” that no foreign substance had ever entered his body. Braun ended up winning the appeal on a technicality, only to be found guilty less than two years later for a similar offense and now must serve an even longer suspension because of it.
In addition, by not appealing the Commissioner’s decision this time, Braun appears to finally be admitting his guilt to the general public. Losing a player of this caliber throws the entire Milwaukee Brewers organization under the bus. More importantly, Braun’s actions also negatively impact the fans that will pay their hard earned money to see a less than stellar product on the field for the rest of the 2013 season.
2. Commissioner Bud Selig: While the Commissioner’s intentions to try and clean up the game seem to be a noble cause, Selig certainly has the navigational skills of Mr. Magoo when it comes to enforcing PED penalties. With regards to the Braun suspension and appeal, it was the first time that an MLB player successfully challenged a drug related penalty. So to catch Braun less than two years later for the same offense makes most people believe that Braun was in fact guilty the first time, and that the MLB simply “dropped the ball” by allowing Braun to play in 2012 without suspension.
As far as Braun’s 65-game penalty is concerned, this suspension comes without proof of an actual positive drug test of any sort. Rather, Commissioner Selig used circumstantial evidence in the form of documents and payment records from the Biogenesis Anti-Aging clinic to come to his decision. In addition, it is rumored that MLB officials used dirty mob-like tactics in order to acquire those documents from the Biogenesis clinic. Selig’s ineptitude prevented the MLB from suspending players in an ethical fashion, so now bullying Biogenesis clinic founder Anthony Bosch and others for information became the only viable course of action to catch baseball’s drug users.
Lastly, the number of games that was decided upon for Braun’s suspension does not even concur with the MLB’s collective bargaining agreement. It is clearly stated that a first time offender of Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy shall receive a 50-game suspension. By issuing a 65-game suspension to Braun, it is clear to me that Selig had an axe to grind since Braun had made Major League Baseball look foolish for not suspending him the first time. Having already set a dangerous precedent by not following the current guidelines for issuing PED punishments, both ethically and logistically, it leads me to believe that Selig will come down extra hard on A-Rod in the near future.
3. The New York Yankees: The Bronx Bombers are currently embroiled in an embarrassing situation regarding their strained relationship with Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees have not allowed Rodriguez to play this year due to injury, even though A-Rod was scheduled to return to action on July 22nd. Being a competitive athlete that is stuck in limbo, A-Rod contends that his own doctors have cleared him to play, which has caused quite a rift between he and team management, particularly with Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman.
Reading between the lines, this issue really began with New York’s bizarre decision to re-sign a then 32 year-old infielder to a ten-year contract extension after the 2007 season. Being that the Yankees have been in business since 1901, the organization should understand that signing a player of that age to a ten-year contract is completely asinine. The Yankees know that barring a minor miracle of sorts, they will be on the hook for every penny of A-Rod’s enormous $275 million contract: Enter Ryan Braun. The Braun suspension was announced on the same day that A-Rod was supposed to make his 2013 season debut. By continuing to delay Rodriguez’s return to the lineup, it appears that the organization is buying time until they get a definitive word from Major League Baseball regarding a lifetime ban for A-Rod. Should Rodriguez receive a lifetime ban from baseball for his PED use, it would act as a financial bail-out for the Yankees and nullify his contract with the team. Meanwhile, without Rodriguez, the Yankees are struggling to gain control of the AL East Division and find themselves in fourth place as of July 26th.
The Yankees deserve to be called out for their ‘Holier-Than-Thou’ approach to this on-going A-Rod saga. When A-Rod was taking steroids, evading penalty from the Commissioner’s office, and winning MVP awards, the Yankees looked the other way and were very happy to be paying customers of Rodriguez’s services. Now that A-Rod is getting older and physically breaking down during the second-half of his ten-year contract, the organization is waiting on pins and needles, praying that the MLB has enough evidence to catch A-Rod in the act and blackball him forever. The Yankees are even willing to concede defeat this season and use a spring-training caliber starting lineup in an effort to rid themselves of A-Rod’s albatross contract, thereby cheating their loyal fans of a competitive baseball team. In my opinion, the New York Yankees would be better served to spend this time filing a civil lawsuit against Biogenesis. After all, they were the pharmaceutical company responsible for providing A-Rod with inferior PED’s that led to his dismal 3-for-25 performance in the 2012 American League Playoffs.