Alex Rodriguez quietly surrendered today, dropping his lawsuits against Major League Baseball (MLB) and accepting a season-long suspension for his use of performance enhancing drugs (PED). It is the longest single suspension ever given to a player for a violation of the league’s PED policy, and throughout the process Rodriguez had maintained his innocence and ranted against what he and his lawyers called a “witch hunt” by MLB. Not only had he continually maintained his innocence, but had taken an aggressive stance against the league, filing appeals and lawsuits at every stage as well as issuing inflammatory press statements. Today however was a far different story as Rodriguez quietly surrendered.
The withdrawal of Rodriguez’s lawsuits was pleasantly received by other parties involved in the case. The players union (MLBPA) seemed particularly relieved by the situation. The union was among the parties Rodriguez’s had sued, claiming that the MLBPA had failed to represent him against the league’s PED charges. The union was in a difficult position regarding Rodriguez as they were obligated to defend him as a member, but his actions made it difficult for the MLBPA to adequately protect him.
The union was also obligated to ensure that the process of testing and suspensions as outlined in the collective bargaining agreement with MLB was followed. Rodriguez’s suspension was outside the norm for a PED suspension, but the commissioner’s office had argued that the commissioner’s power to protect the integrity of the game came into play in the Rodriguez case, allowing him to issue a more severe suspension. An independent arbitrator did reduce the length of the initial suspension slightly, but the reduced penalty still amounted to a season long ban for Rodriguez.
There had been hints in the past month that had indicated that Rodriguez had perhaps come to terms with his fate and that the withdrawal of the lawsuits would eventually take place. During interviews given in mid-January, Rodriguez implied that the suspension could be a good thing for him. He is an older player and has suffered many injuries in recent years. Rodriguez argued that the time off could allow him to heal properly and end his career more successfully. He also stated his desire to retire with the New York Yankees. The actions of Alex Rodriguez today indicate his surrender on the issue and the acceptance of his suspension.
This does spare the Yankees the spectacle of Rodriguez making good on another of his prior threats and showing up to spring training, which begins for the Yankees on February 19th, and they will be free to use the money they would have paid Rodriguez on other players. It does leave them with another dilemma of what to do with Rodriguez when he returns. The Yankees are often criticized for having too many old, overpaid players, and by the time Rodriguez returns from his suspension, he would certainly fall within that category. His unpopularity and “conviction” in the court of public opinion regarding PED’s make him virtually untradeable, leaving the team with few options aside from playing him and getting what production they still can from him.
MLB itself is likely relieved to be able to put this entire situation behind it. It was unlikely that a court would have sided with Rodriguez and overturned his suspension, but the legal process would have continued for far longer and drawn far more attention, than the league would have liked. The decision for Alex Rodriguez to quietly surrender and accept his suspension may have been unexpected, but it is not unwelcome.
By Christopher V. Spencer