Sunday, August 4, 2013

Why you should want to see A-Rod battle MLB: Because even arrogant jerks deserve due process & equal treatment under the rules

This weekend, I got an email from an old friend, and fellow Yankee fan, who politely disagreed with me regarding Major League Baseball's case against Alex Rodriguez. He thought A-Rod was a cheater and all-around bad dude, and wanted to see him banned from baseball for life. And he seemed to not understand why I was defending him here. Here is why I think differently, and why I want to see Rodriguez take the fight against MLB as far as he can:

Because you don't have to like or respect A-Rod to think he's getting a raw deal here

Let's concede: A-Rod used PEDs. He is overpaid, and way past his prime. He has really bad judgment an awful lot of the time. He says dumb things, he eats at Hooters (a true culinary outrage, in my view), and he told kids not to take steroids while he did it himself. He will never rival Mariano Rivera in being likeable or liked. He ticked off MLB by playing poker. He cheated on his wife with Madonna.  I could fill up this blog entry with hundreds of examples of his dopiness.

All that being said, there are rules in place in baseball to handle PEDs. You can read the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program here. And in no place does it say that arrogant jerks should get a bigger punishment from MLB just because many people find them unlikable. Or because they make a lot of money. The rules also talk about first offenses, second offenses, and the like. But there isn't a "one-strike-and-you're-out" policy, the way MLB would like to have it now. Heck, even dealing drugs is only an 80-to-100 game suspension!

Because it's precisely because he is not well-liked that the union should defend A-Rod against MLB

Dave Zirin of The Nation wrote pretty much how I feel, so I will quote him here (emphasis added):
"A-Rod’s lack of support however is exactly what makes him such low hanging fruit for Bud Selig. And that’s precisely why the Major League Baseball Players Association needs to be fighting his suspension tooth-and-nail. Unions are not supposed to be fan clubs. They are not organizations of the righteous, the pure, or the politically pitch-perfect. If they are to be worth a damn, in baseball or anywhere, they need to be the broadest of broad churches: institutions that will defend their most loathsome members because they understand that “an injury to one is an injury to all” is more than a slogan on a t-shirt. If a player can no longer take the field when appealing a suspension, that also disempowers the entire point of an appeal's process and if Bud Selig can get away with invoking the “best interests of the game” clause on A-Rod, then a precedent has been set and no one is safe."
Because we still don't really know what he has done to justify a lifelong -- or even season-long -- suspension

What, exactly, has Rodriguez done to justify the threat of being banned from the game? When MLB banned Pete Rose, they had the Dowd Report, which explained exactly how Rose bet on the game. Is MLB planning such a scholarly thing, or do they think that simply leaking rumors and such to Bill Madden is enough.

Did A-Rod try to buy up the Biogenesis records, or did Tony Bosch try to shake him down for money? Is Bosch exaggerating things on Rodriguez because MLB is paying him to "get" A-Rod?

Seven hundred plus games -- or even two hundred plus games -- are obviously long periods of time, and unprecedented in MLB history for what is technically a first PED offense. And neither number is in proportion in what other players have received. Look at the suspensions that Melky Cabrera and Ryan Braun and Manny Ramirez have gotten. What has A-Rod done to deserve to be suspended worse than them? MLB needs to tell its fans on the record, and not hope to browbeat A-Rod into a settlement so they don't have to publicly say exactly what they claim he did.

I think a 50-game suspension is appropriate, with another 50 games if he is proven to have obstructed justice. That is still a pretty big penalty, and it should be enough for MLB (although it will never be enough for Bill Madden!)

Because if MLB wins against A-Rod, expect your favorite aging, overpriced veteran to get the same treatment

One of the rare smart things A-Rod has ever said is when he recently talked about the powers that be trying to find "creative ways to cancel your contract" -- something he said should be "concerning" for present and future players. Because if MLB gets away with effectively voiding A-Rod's contract, this will be something that other players need to worry about. And what's to say that somebody won't hire a Howie Spira type to dig up dirt -- or make up dirt -- to get a team out of a bad contract?

Because the Yankees shouldn't get an unprecedented financial benefit here

Buck Showalter knew what he was doing with his supposed "off the record" conversation about how the Yanks would financially benefit from getting rid of A-Rod via this maneuver. I have said it before, and I will say it again, but managers and front office execs and owners need to have some skin in the game. I'll bet that Brian Cashman is practically licking his chops at the prospect of having another 30+ million that he can spend stupidly. It shouldn't be that way, especially not when it is very possible that the Yanks are working hand-in-hand to "get" A-Rod. MLB needs to say that any such salary should still count against teams' payroll, and that the money is donated to charity -- or back to the fans, the way the Brewers are doing with Ryan Braun's salary.

And because a battle between A-Rod and MLB and the Yanks will be epic

I have to admit that I am digging A-Rod's heel turn -- he is no longer trying to hide his contempt of the Yankees and MLB. What dirt does he have on the Yankees? What shenanigans have been done against him? How far is he going to go to make sure to get his money? How wild is it going to see him play when he has been suspended? Can he turn the Yankees around? Get your popcorn ready, folks!

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