Following a decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz on Saturday, Alex Rodriguez has officially been suspended for 162 games—ending his 2014 season before it began (h/t to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports for the detailed report).
After being connected to the Biogenesis scandal, Rodriguez has been suspended for the remainder of the entirety of the 2014 season, including any 2014 postseason games should the Yankees qualify.
A-Rod should consider himself lucky that the suspension has an end date, as it was reported that he could have faced a lifetime ban.
Rodriguez could be back at some point, but the 38-year-old has been disgraced once again for doping.
How could a guy who was on pace to break the all-time home run record fall so far? Let's take a look.
In the early 1990s A-Rod was beginning his journey to MLB, although that looked like a hazy daydream at first.
In a retrospective article written back in 2010, Sports Illustrated's Joe Lemire reported that Rodriguez was cut from his high school's varsity team in 1991, his freshman year, as Columbus High had more talented players than Rodriguez. It sounds funny to say that now, but at the time it was true.
A-Rod then transferred to Westminster Christian, where he made the varsity team as a sophomore. However, even then he didn't make the team because of his powerful bat.
"I saw him as more of a defensive player than an offensive player," Westminster coach Rich Hofman recalled to Lemire about his former shortstop. He was considered a talented defender but a weakness in the lineup, like many shortstops in those days.
That all changed very quickly, as he put on 25 pounds in no time and went from a defensive, contact-hitting shortstop to a bulky high school athlete who benched 300 pounds without a problem.
Looking back, that could have the appearance of being the first sign that Rodriguez was getting some extra help, but at the time PEDs weren't a major problem in baseball.
The change suited Rodriguez on the field, as he batted over .500 and belted nine home runs his senior year, vaulting him up the draft boards.
Not bad for a kid who was cut his freshman year.
After completing his stellar senior season with Westminster Christian, Rodriguez had a major decision to make.
He had already signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Miami, but his senior year opened up the eyes of many scouts. In fact, he was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, typically reserved for college players.
The Seattle Mariners drafted Rodriguez No. 1 overall in 1993. Through negotiations headed by A-Rod's new agent, Scott Boras, A-Rod landed a $1 million signing bonus, according to John Schlegel of MLB.com.
He began his professional career in 1994, starting at Single-A Appleton. It quickly became apparent that the minors were going to be an easy task for Rodriguez—he hit .319 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI in just 65 games before being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville.
A-Rod excelled there as well and made another jump to Triple-A Calgary, where he hit .311 with six home runs and 21 RBI in just 32 games.
Just over a year after he was drafted, Rodriguez made his debut in a Mariners uniform on July 8, 1994. His debut, however, was rather inauspicious. A-Rod hit just .204 with no homers in 17 games.
He would return to Triple-A in 1995, getting a bit more seasoning before making his way back to Seattle in 1995. He fared a bit better, hitting .232 with five home runs in 48 games. With reigning shortstop Luis Sojo on his way out, it was clear that Rodriguez was destined to become the team's full-time starter in 1996.
Alex Rodriguez became a legend for the struggling Seattle Mariners franchise, starting with his first full season in 1996.
What made Rodriguez's 1996 season so special? Just the fact that he batted an MLB-best .358 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI, while being named to his first All-Star Game, winning a Silver Slugger Award and finishing second in MVP Award voting to Juan Gonzalez of the Rangers.
Rodriguez would only get better from there, joining the 40-40 club in 1998 with 42 home runs and 46 stolen bases. He then went for at least 40 home runs and 110 RBI in each of the next two seasons.
Rodriguez finished his time in Seattle with 189 home runs and 595 RBI while batting over .300 before becoming a free agent after the 2000 season.
He made a name for himself as one of the up-and-coming stars in MLB while in Seattle, but his time with the Mariners was over the second his contract expired.
The Seattle Mariners just couldn't offer A-Rod the money other teams were willing to throw at him, and there was no way the team could have matched the record-breaking 10-year, $252 million contract he was offered by the Texas Rangers prior to the 2001 season.
It wasn't for a lack of trying by the Mariners. According to Seattle sportswriter Art Thiel (via U.S.S. Mariner), A-Rod first turned down a seven-year, $63 million contract extension back in 1998 that would have started in the year 2001. He later turned away an eight-year offer for $117.5 million that would have kicked in at the start of the 2000 season.
Nonetheless, A-Rod went with the money and departed Seattle after seven seasons. Ironically, the Mariners would go on to post the best regular-season record in American League history the following year, finishing with a 116-46 record.
A-Rod shined immediately with the Rangers in the 2001 season, establishing a new career high with 52 home runs.
In his three seasons with the Rangers he played all but one game, batting over .300 twice while blasting 156 home runs and knocking in 395 runs.
At the time it looked like A-Rod's boost from just under 37 home runs per season in Seattle to 52 per season in Texas didn't raise any suspicion, but looking back it's clear that his power surge might not have been entirely clean.
Little did fans or management know at the time, but A-Rod's entire stay with the Rangers was chemically fueled.
A-Rod was named to three more All-Star teams and won three Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards and his first MVP Award (2003) in his three years in Texas, but the team wasn't winning.
In fact, the Rangers were simply awful during A-Rod's time in Arlington. With his added offense in 2001, the Rangers only managed a 73-89 record, just two games better than the previous season.
The 2002 season was more of the same as they finished at 72-90, and in 2003, A-Rod's first MVP season, they finished up at 71-91.
A-Rod did do his part to provide offense. However, his onerous contract was such that the Rangers were completely hamstrung in their pursuit of support, especially a pitching staff that was porous at best.
Ultimately, Rodriguez wasn't enough to win games and draw fans, so the Rangers had no choice but to trade their superstar to rid themselves of his ridiculous contract.
Every team with the money to take on Rodriguez's contract inquired about him. The Boston Red Sox had a deal in place to send Manny Ramirez to Texas in exchange for A-Rod, but the deal fell apart. He was ultimately traded to the New York Yankees, whose budget not only allowed the team to take on his contract but was big enough that it could keep some talent around him.
Donning the pinstripes and joining the Yankees seemed to only help A-Rod, who finally got his chance to shine with the most popular team in baseball.
While A-Rod had to move from shortstop to third base to accommodate teammate and captain Derek Jeter, the fact that he was thrust permanently into the spotlight seemed like a good thing at first.
"Coming to the Yankees, I feel energized, reborn," Rodriguez told Tom Singer of MLB.com at the time. Of his introduction by the Yankees, A-Rod said, "I feel special, honored."
While he struggled to deal with the pressure of the Big Apple in his first year with the Yanks and fell apart as the team did against the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 American League Championship Series, he would bounce back quickly.
Rodriguez went on to win two more MVP awards (2005, 2007) and his first World Series (2009) over the next few years, bringing his average back over .300 while averaging over 45 home runs and 135 RBI from 2005 through 2007.
All was good with A-Rod and the Yankees...until things began to unravel after the 2007 season.
PEDs were nothing but whispers and innuendo in Major League Baseball during Alex Rodriguez's ascent to stardom. However, that all changed when the Mitchell Report was revealed in December 2007.
The Mitchell Report brought to light that the use of performance-enhancing drugs in MLB was no longer just a minor problem that cost a handful of famous players their reputations.
The report turned the use of PEDs into a widespread issue that was for many years swept under the rug.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today described the report as one that documented the "code of silence" among players and one that blamed everyone involved in baseball from Bud Selig to clubhouse attendants.
Hundreds of players were named in the report, but Alex Rodriguez's name was nowhere to be found. He was not mentioned in the report at all, and no one thought of him as a steroid user at the time.
The importance of the Mitchell Report in the Alex Rodriguez saga was not that it named him outright, but instead that it shed light on how deep PED use was in baseball. In fact, it made fans and analysts wary of any player who was successful at the time.
The Mitchell Report was the beginning of the end for A-Rod, as investigations into PED usage significantly increased after it was released.
Shortly after the Mitchell Report shed light on the use of PEDs in baseball, Rodriguez joined Katie Couric on CBS to discuss the report and what it meant.
Rodriguez famously denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs of any kind, saying that he had "never felt overmatched on the baseball field," which is why he supposedly never used them.
But did that hold true when he was cut from the varsity team his freshman year? Or when he was dubbed a defensive shortstop in high school? Or when he struggled in the pros before 1996?
Because he wasn't mentioned in the Mitchell Report and there was no reason to suspect he was lying, Rodriguez was believed by the public, and even accusations by Jose Canseco that he was connected to a known steroid supplier couldn't damage his reputation.
Looking back, this denial is a bit of a joke, but at the time it seemed Rodriguez was adamant in explaining he was against the use of PEDs in baseball, despite his claim that Barry Bonds held the home run record and shouldn't have an asterisk next to his name.
The year 2009 was a rough one legally for Rodriguez, who proved to be a liar on the heels of his interview with Katie Couric.
It all started when Selena Roberts and David Epstein of Sports Illustrated first revealed Rodriguez to have taken testosterone and Primobolan in 2003. This first report immediately threw Rodriguez's interview with Couric into doubt.
Rodriguez soon admitted that he had taken PEDs, but the damage was done, as he was seen as a liar in his interview with Couric, which opened the floodgates.
A-Rod was quick to point the finger at someone else, blaming his cousin for giving him steroids and saying that he didn't know what they were, according to the Associated Press (h/t knoxnews.com). Obviously it was his duty to know what went into his body, but he did admit that he knew it was something that could help him win.
It was later revealed that Yuri Sucart was the mysterious cousin Rodriguez alluded to, but the story still didn't make sense, as noted by a friend of Rodriguez:
Yuri was a mule, not a guy who would initiate anything. He did what Alex told him to. He was only looking out for Alex. He is not a guy who would take the initiative to go out and buy drugs. Alex said during the press conference that his cousin just did what was asked —that is perfect for Yuri's M.O. He is a person who would be with him forever, a loyal guy without a bad bone in his body.
The storm wasn't yet over for Rodriguez either.
Roberts later wrote a book about Rodriguez after the initial report, in which she claimed that he took steroids in high school (sparking his incredible growth and development) and when he was with the Yankees in 2004, after which he put on 15 pounds during the offseason and won the MVP award in 2005.
If these claims were to be believed, Rodriguez had been using PEDs for almost two decades, and he might not have been done yet.
After an impressive 2009 campaign that culminated in Rodriguez winning his first World Series title with the Yankees, A-Rod ran into even more trouble one year after the initial report of him using PEDs.
In February 2010, Rodriguez was linked to another controversial figure: Dr. Anthony Galea.
Michael S. Schmidt of The New York Times broke the news of the connection, reporting that A-Rod had received treatment from Galea "at some point," and that an unnamed athlete who was also treated by Galea said he heard the doctor bragging about how he went to New York to treat the Yankees slugger.
Galea was under investigation for distributing PEDs at the time and later pleaded guilty, which didn't look good for Rodriguez.
However, because Galea pleaded guilty before the investigation revealed which athletes had taken PEDs under him, it was never proven that Rodriguez took any illegal substances under Galea, and for all we know, A-Rod had a clean relationship with Galea.
We also don't know when Rodriguez received treatment from Galea, which could potentially mean that he did take PEDs from Galea, but it was when he was with the Rangers (a time during which he already admitted to using PEDs). This seems unlikely since Galea said that he treated Rodriguez in New York, but that could have been a meeting place for the two between Rodriguez in Texas and Galea in Toronto.
The link between Rodriguez and Galea remains unclear and is a mystery, but being included in another PED report and connected to a known PED distributor didn't help A-Rod's case.
All was quiet on the A-Rod front for nearly three years after he was linked to Galea. However, that was just the calm before a storm that rocked the baseball world.
The Miami New Times reported its findings on a wellness clinic in South Florida called Biogenesis run by Anthony Bosch in January 2013, revealing a number of famous athletes to have been connected to PEDs.
Rodriguez was among them.
The report contained damning evidence that A-Rod had not stopped doping in 2003 as he had claimed, and that he was allegedly buying PEDs from 2009 through 2012 as well.
In 2009, Rodriguez was listed as paying $3,500 for a list of substances including HGH and testosterone. As recently as 2012 he was mentioned for owing $4,000 for "three weeks of Sub-Q." In case you were wondering, Sub-Q is a mixture of PEDs including HGH.
When all was said and done, Rodriguez was mentioned 16 times in the report, but that wasn't all.
Rodriguez's cousin, Yuri Sucart, made another appearance in the A-Rod saga, buying $500 worth of HGH from Biogenesis.
If that wasn't enough, a former employee of Bosch told the Miami New Times that Bosch was constantly mentioning A-Rod:
He was always talking about A-Rod. We never saw any athletes in the office, so we didn't know if he was just talking [expletive] or not. But he would brag about how tight they were.
Rodriguez quickly denied the report, but it was enough to raise suspicion from several organizations.
The clinic came under investigation by both MLB and the DEA, which had led to talk of possible suspensions of A-Rod and others.
Alex Rodriguez was rehabbing from hip surgery for most of the 2013 season, with the hope that he could return to the field sometime after the All-Star break.
A-Rod was able to keep a low profile—for the most part—during the first few months of his rehab. However, as the All-Star break neared and he began a schedule of rehab games in the minors, things started turning...well, weird.
First, A-Rod made the decision to join Twitter. Certainly an odd choice, given what he was facing. But hey, Twitter's the "in thing" among athletes, so why not join the fray?
That decision proved to help drive an even deeper wedge into his relationship with the Yankees, specifically with general manager Brian Cashman.
In late June, A-Rod tweeted that his physician, Dr. Bryan Kelly, had given him the go-ahead to move forward in his recovery.
Visit from Dr. Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news - the green light to play games again! http://t.co/RuzfXOJjHI— Alex Rodriguez (@AROD) June 25, 2013
That news incensed Cashman, who, in a clear fit of rage, essentially told A-Rod to "shut the f*** up," according to Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York.
Cashman's contention was that it was the Yankees who controlled A-Rod's rehab schedule and not his doctor. Cashman would later apologize for his outburst, and A-Rod released a statement at the time as well.
Still, it seemed Cashman really had no desire to see A-Rod back in a Yankees uniform, no matter if a half-healthy A-Rod could have hit better than the current cast of characters who played third base this past season.
A-Rod started his rehab in Single-A Charleston before moving up the ladder all the way to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Again, the story took a sordid turn.
A-Rod apparently strained a quad muscle on July 20, and an MRI the next day revealed a Grade 1 strain. It was determined at the time that Rodriguez would return to Tampa for rest and rehab for a period of seven to 10 days.
But was it a strain? Days later, A-Rod employed the services of Dr. Michael Gross, who went on WFAN radio to refute the Yankees' assertion of a quad strain.
The Yankees responded in kind, saying that A-Rod violated the CBA by failing to inform the Yankees that he was seeking a second opinion, according to Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.
Rodriguez sparked a conspiracy theory when this all went down, according to Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. As I wrote before, by keeping Rodriguez out, the team would save itself quite a bit of cash.
While everyone assumed A-Rod was going to receive a stiffer penalty than the other Biogenesis folks, it was shocking even to his biggest haters that the number was ultimately 211 games—as reported by MLB.com
A-Rod almost immediately appealed, however, and found himself back on the field on August 5, 2013 (h/t to Mercury News). This was certainly a controversial loophole, but also part of the fair justice system within the sport.
His on-field performance amidst constant ridicule, loud boos and a looming legal battle left much to be desired, but for 44 games, A-Rod was once again a New York Yankee—which seemed to be his goal all along.
Ironically, the right-handed A-Rod put up very solid numbers against righties, but struggled mightily against the lefties he is supposed to crush.
|2014 Season (156 AB)||.244||21||7||19||.348||.423||.771|
|Against LHP (56 AB)||.200||4||0||0||.385||.200||.585|
|Against RHP (100 AB)||.264||17||7||19||.328||.528||.856|
Though a shell of the player he once was, A-Rod did prove he can still cause damage in MLB under the right circumstances. A dark cloud still loomed over his head, but at least the appeal allowed him to clear his mind between the lines of a baseball diamond.
Once the on-field action was done, the appeal itself began on September 30, 2013 in New York City (h/t to USA Today), with A-Rod meeting at the MLB headquarters.
The process would last a whopping 53 days, and would involve testimony from Biogenesis chief Anthony Bosch and many others—though not MLB commissioner Bud Selig—and certainly didn't lack for drama. A-Rod and his camp appeared frustrated from the get-go, and that would spill over later in the process (see next slide).
On November 20, 2013, a furious Alex Rodriguez stormed out of his arbitration hearing—calling it "ridiculous" and cursing in the courtroom at an MLB official.
Things were clearly not favoring him and his team, and the embattled Yankees star issued the following statement (h/t to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York):
"I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails," the statement said. "I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the players' association refused to order Selig to come in and face me.
"The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce."
A-Rod did not stop there, however, as he strolled right into WFAN studios in New York City for an impromptu interview with host Mike Francesa (the video is embedded above).
Among the many quotes was a full denial from A-Rod, as he proclaimed “I did nothing, Mike. With the (Anthony) Bosch nonsense, nothing.”
He also denied that he had any involvement with indicting other players in the Biogenesis scandal via leaking documents about Ryan Braun to Yahoo! Sports, calling the assertion “laughable” and “disgusting.”
It was quite a show, and set up the certainty that A-Rod was:
1. Going to lose the arbitration hearing, and
2. Mad enough to immediately try to push that decision up the chain and into the court system
A long and painful road for Alex Rodriguez finally reached a bitter 'end' on January 11, as arbitrator Fredric Horowitz issues a decision to suspend the slugger for 162 games—plus any postseason games of the 2014 season should the Yankees make it (h/t to Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York for the story)
In response to the decision, Alex Rodriguez released a lengthy statement on Facebook that including the following section:
"I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players’ contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me."
This statement clearly expresses what we already knew all along, that A-Rod will attempt to overturn this decision in court—if he will be heard. This appears unlikely to occur unless the process itself is deemed to be unjust, as opposed to simply the decision in terms of suspension length.
The Yankees will be thrilled to save his 2014 salary ($25 million), as it will be stripped from the payroll, but they will not have him out of their hair just yet.
A-Rod still expects to be at spring training, and it appears the Yankees don't have a means to stop him from doing so just yet—according to this tweet from Sportscenter.
While this isn't over, it appears we have all finally reached a turning point in a process that seems to never end.
Following a decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz on Saturday, Alex Rodriguez has officially been suspended for 162 games—ending his 2014 season before it began (h/t to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports for the detailed report).
MLB made a clear attempt to clean up the mess left behind by the Biogenesis scandal. For A-Rod's part, was officially suspended for his suspected use of PEDs, and for the actions he took in trying to cover up his illegal doping. He will be suspended for the entire 2014 campaign, and at 38 years old it will be difficult for him to get back into the game after missing over a year of playing time.
Rodriguez will take his fight to the court system, however, and hope against hope that something can be done to reduce his suspension to a more digestible 50 or 100 games.
Going forward, things look bleak for Rodriguez. It's hard to imagine him avoiding a suspension that will extend less than the 162 plus postseason that was ruled by Horowitz. Assuming that he is suspended through 2014, he would have to try to come back to MLB at the age of 39 years old, and he will turn 40 during the 2015 season.
Rodriguez has already experienced a significant decline in offense over the past several years, and having multiple hip surgeries in the past won't help him either. He has suffered too much wear and tear on his body to be productive in his 40s like teammate Mariano Rivera.
Rodriguez could make the decision to try to play in the 2015 season and collect as much of the remaining money ($61 million) on his massive contract as possible. However, it would be foolish to expect him to be the same player he once was when—and if—he returns.
This suspension may as well have been a death penalty for A-Rod, as he will simply never be a major factor again.