This is going to be hard for me to write, but I feel as if it needs to be said. I don’t think Alex Rodriguez should be suspended from Major League Baseball. There. I said it. For those of you who have decided to read further, thank you. I appreciate you giving me the chance to debate this.
Major League Baseball was unable to test A-Rod during those amazing seasons due to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. As a result, A-Rod was off the hook for another 6 years, when he finally admitted to steroid use during his tenure with Texas. At this point, I believe that MLB must have wanted A-Rod as their poster child, if you will. They wanted to go after Alex in ways that they never could have with Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, or Barry Bonds. Bud Selig wanted to set an example for all the alleged cheaters that slipped through his iron grasp, and there would be no better picture to attach to the wall of shame than the highest paid player in the league over the past 12 years.
MLB finally got their chance during the Biogenesis scandal in June 2013, when stories came to light that a clinic in Miami was selling performance-enhancing drugs to multiple players in the league. Major League Baseball would suspend fourteen players as a result of the investigation. All players accepted their suspensions with the exception of one, Alex Rodriguez. However, A-Rod’s 211-game suspension was more than 3 times as many as Ryan Braun, who walked out with 65 games (If you remember, he failed a drug test in 2011, appealed on a basis of mishandling, and won).
Why should A-Rod accept 211 games? Why should anyone accept that many games? Especially if they truly feel they are innocent of any wrongdoing. The number of games is well more than a season, and quite unprecedented. You cannot count A-Rod’s admission to steroid use during the 2001-2003 campaigns, as they predated the MLB Joint Drug Agreement of 2004. You simply cannot punish someone for their previous issues, otherwise we would be suspending Mark McGwire for using drugs that would later be banned. If Alex were to be suspended at all, it should be for the same number of games as the other 14 players on the list of Biogenesis clients. His name alone on the list of suspended players should be enough of a message to other players that MLB takes the Joint Drug Agreement seriously.
To suspend A-Rod for 211 games means that MLB wants to get him for the past crimes. In fact, they admitted to it when they said he was suspended for “his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years.” Clearly, they wanted him gone. They argue that the number was so high because A-Rod tried to obstruct the investigation. The same investigation that MLB hired multiple retired FBI agents, and paid over $100K to different sources to get documents from the Biogenesis clinic. Clearly, there was a witch hunt going on, and A-Rod was just a dead man walking from the very start. Allegedly, A-Rod also spent a lot of money in an attempt to purchase the documents containing his personal file, which can be perceived as incriminating. It can also be seen as a way to stop MLB from getting information that has nothing to do with them. Don’t you, as a patient, have a right to privacy? Granted, this was not a medical profession, but a nutritionist (not even a Registered Dietician), but he is well within his rights to ask for his own paperwork to be sure no one knows anything that goes on with him.
I know how terrible it looks. I fully realize that is a tough argument to come back against, however, the other side of this is the former owner of Biogenesis, Anthony Bosch. A man who was going to be sued by Major League Baseball until he offered to work with them to take down A-Rod in exchange for immunity and protection from any other legal proceedings. Of course it was in his best interest to tell MLB anything they wanted to hear. If you are told that you can be arrested for a felony, and fined for hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process, it makes perfect sense to say A-Rod took banned substances. At the end of the day, you’re immune. You have no penalty to face. You got off scott free, and there’s nothing anyone can do to you.
If you are Alex Rodriguez, you are an admitted steroid user. You claim you haven’t used them since coming to the New York Yankees, but the Court of Public Opinion states that if you did it once, you must be guilty of it again and again. It’s unfair to assume guilt, as that is exactly the opposite of what our legal system states. You are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty. This means the burden of proof falls onto the prosecution to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Alex Rodriguez is guilty of the crimes they accuse him of. While Rodriguez’ appeal of his suspension is not quite a legal court case, it soon will be. His accuser never took the stand during the appeal process, and the newly appointed arbitrator (hand picked by A-Rod’s accuser, mind you) pretty much gave MLB what they wanted the entire time, which was an entire season without Alex Rodriguez in a uniform. Does any of this seem fishy to you? I realize the accused never has to face his accuser in court, but the accuser never gets to pick which judge presides over their case. Bud Selig himself has said this is an unprecedented case, so why wouldn’t you, as the man in charge of this investigation, go on and tell the arbitrator why you believe the suspension was justified?
In Selig’s own words, MLB conducted some 16,000 urine tests in 2012 alone. A-Rod didn’t fail a single one, so how come it is presumed he is guilty of any wrongdoing? If (and it’s a big “if”) A-Rod didn’t violate the terms of the CBA and the Joint Drug Agreement, and really didn’t take any banned substances, why shouldn’t he defend himself to the very end? There is more than just the $25 million he is owed by the Yankees at stake here. We’re talking about a man’s reputation. He has plenty of money to last several lifetimes, but once your reputation is tarnished, there’s not much you can do to rebuild it.
You can argue that A-Rod has done some shady things in the past to already tarnish that reputation. He’s been an egomaniac, a jerk, a terrible teammate, and just all around an unlikable guy that comes across as disingenuous every time he opens his mouth. However, none of that says he took a banned substance. Is it not just as shady that MLB fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator that presided over Ryan Braun’s appeal process? The same arbitrator that ruled in favor of Braun was quickly ousted by MLB, for no other reason than disagreeing with their stance. Why should Fredric Horowitz rule in favor of the defendant, when the company that is paying you has shown they will fire you when you rule against their wishes?
There’s a lot that just screams conspiracy throughout all of this. And whether A-Rod really did steroids in the 2012 campaign or not does not justify a 211 game suspension, nor does it justify one for 162 games. If A-Rod is innocent, he shouldn’t “settle” for a lesser sentence. He shouldn’t serve a single game. Under the terms of the CBA and the Joint Drug Agreement, he hasn’t violated a single rule. MLB’s evidence came from a liar who was trying to protect himself, and a myriad of text messages between two shady people that never mention drugs of any kind. Again, it is definitely shady, but not incriminating by any means. This all goes back to reasonable doubt. If there is any reasonable doubt that the person did not commit the crime, you can’t convict that person.
Erik Espenberg is a native New Yorker who is a fan of baseball, hockey, and soccer. He has a podcast in the works called “Behind the Gorilla.” He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BTGPod