How MLB became the greater villain in the A-Rod saga
Don't hate the player. Hate the game.
Alex Rodriguez will miss the entire 2014 season after an arbiter upheld most of Major League Baseball's unprecedented suspension of the Yankees third baseman.
That A-Rod lost his appeal is a win for the league. But the victory came only as the result of a fanatical, ethically dubious investigation that tainted everyone involved — the league included.
On Sunday, a double-feature 60 Minutes report for the first time laid out the league's case against Rodriguez, featuring interviews with Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB executive Rob Manfred, and star witness Anthony Bosch, an accused PED-peddler who used to head the health clinic Biogenesis. Rodriguez allegedly took a bunch of banned substances like human growth hormone and testosterone, paid Bosch $12,000 per month for a precise drug regimen, and was so afraid of needles Bosch had to inject him on at least one occasion. Bosch also provided documentation and text messages between himself and A-Rod to back up his story.
So case closed, right?
Not exactly. There are still two big problems with the suspension, which the league actually spotlighted during its little victory lap on CBS.
For one, the investigation was highly suspect. The league paid a source named "Bobby" $125,000 for Biogenesis documents after it couldn't get them on its own. And MLB sued Bosch and his brother supposedly for interfering with the investigation, but really as a ploy to make Bosch talk.
The ploy worked: Bosch turned, and the league dropped its case against him.
Obviously, that raises some questions about Bosch's credibility. MLB had previously painted Bosch as a self-serving liar; now, it is touting him as infallible because there is apparently nothing more convincing than a witness who has been coerced into cooperation through the threat of legal retribution.
Sure, Bosch had some hard evidence to support his general claims. But as Joe Posnanski put it, the evidence was the product of "a latrine of drivel, stupidity, delusion, and a soul-crushing assault on the game of baseball."
Then there's the suspension itself. Baseball's Joint Drug Agreement lays out a tiered suspension system: 50 games for a failed test, 100 for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third. Selig ignored those guidelines, apparently using both the JDA and the Collective Bargaining Agreement to slap A-Rod with a 211-game ban.
Selig has never explained how he came up with that arbitrary number, and the arbiter's ruling didn't clear up the confusion either. Here's Fangraph's legal expert Wendy Thurm on that:
Indeed, the ambiguity of how the JDA applies to a non-analytical positive coupled with the "best interests of baseball" clause in the CBA leave players at the mercy of the commissioner's office — the exact opposite of what the 50 game-100 game-lifetime ban punishment scheme had intended to accomplish.
If a player fights a suspension based on a positive test, is he acting against the best interests of baseball? If a player seeks evidence to counter a charge of a non-analytical positive, is he impeding MLB's investigation? These are uncomfortable questions players and the MLBPA are now forced to confront. [Fangraphs]
That Bosch and MLB took part in the big A-Rod shaming story only makes the whole thing look even worse for the league. The Major League Baseball Players Association was, understandably, not pleased.
"It is unfortunate that Major League Baseball apparently lacks faith in the integrity and finality of the arbitrator's decision and our Joint Drug Agreement, such that it could not resist the temptation to publicly pile on against Alex Rodriguez," the union said in a statement.
It's almost as if Selig got tired of seeing A-Rod hog all the negative attention and wanted to remind everyone, yet again, how detestable he can be, too.