The recent report by MLB.com that Rodriguez and 12 other players were suspended due to their involvement in the Biogenesis scandal has sent ripple effects throughout the sport.
Rodriguez was suspended through the end of the 2014 season, but in a release by the third baseman (h/t ESPN), he said he planned to fight to ban.
"I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process," Rodriguez said in a release. "I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by my side through all this."
While the other players accepted their suspensions, A-Rod playing while the appeals process goes on leaves a black eye on the sport.
There was speculation, according to Steven Marcus of Newsday, that Commissioner Bud Selig would invoke the "best interest of baseball" clause in the collective bargaining agreement, which would have kept A-Rod off the field.
However, since there is no mention of that having happened, Rodriguez will be playing until the suspension is heard.
Making matters worse is this tweet from Tyler Kepner of the New York Times:
For those seeking justice, that isn't good enough.
Rodriguez is 14 home runs away from passing Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time home run list. With that, another $6 million will go into A-Rod's pocket, according to his contract (h/t Baseball Prospectus).
While it's hard to think he would catch Babe Ruth (714 home runs) this year, Mays' mark is within reach.
For someone who has seemingly thumbed his nose at the game, passing the best all-around player in baseball history would be a travesty.
No Reason for Him to Play
There is no reason for Rodriguez to be playing. It is in the best interest of baseball for him to be serving his suspension while his appeal is ongoing.
At the very least, he would get a 50-game ban like the others, so why not have him go ahead and serve that while the appeal goes on?
According to a story by the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand and Anthony McCarron, A-Rod is becoming a distraction to the team.
“Guys are just tired of it,” the player said. “The media circus that’s revolving around Alex is insane — and we haven’t even seen him. It just keeps going. It’s like a carousel that just keeps going around and around and around. At some point, it has to stop.
“I would like his bat in the lineup. We could obviously use it because the potential for some home runs would help us a lot. But with the circus that’s surrounding him right now, I don’t think anybody wants that.”
With A-Rod set to play throughout the appeals, it's going to be nothing but a circus wherever the Yankees go.
The story is going to become so much of a distraction, one has to wonder if it's going to hurt the Yankees on the field.
Playing the "what if" game can be dangerous, but it's something to consider in this instance.
What if the Yankees come back and make the playoffs? What if Rodriguez plays a huge role in that? What if he has a game-winning hit or does something else that helps the Yankees win a playoff game?
How much more of a black eye does that leave on the sport? Someone who should have been suspended is making a difference in the pennant race.
Ryan Braun did it back in 2011 when he failed his drug test after Game 1 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Braun batted .500 with one home run and four RBI in the series. He affected the series and helped the Milwaukee Brewers advance to the NLCS.
Rodriguez is not only getting a chance to affect the pennant race this year, but he's also getting a chance to affect history. Even worse, he'll get even more money if he does both—if you throw in postseason bonuses.
Union Not Helping Matters
Those suspensions will include injured New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, with the source saying the evidence against Rodriguez is "far beyond" what MLB had on Braun. The length of Rodriguez's suspension is expected to be affected by MLB's belief that he interfered with the investigation.
There is obviously a priority to representing union members, but we must also remember they have the full evidence as well.
According to the ESPN report, MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner stated:
For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.
That's a big change in his tune from during the All-Star break, when he stated (h/t ESPN) that the union wouldn't protect players with overwhelming evidence against them.
"I can tell you, if we have a case where there really is overwhelming evidence that a player committed a violation of the program, our fight is going to be that they make a deal," Weiner told the Daily News. "We're not interested in having players with overwhelming evidence that they violated the [drug] program out there. Most of the players aren't interested in that. We'd like to have a clean program."
So what changed? Was the suspension considered to be too long for Rodriguez, who has previously admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs?
Again, there may be something in the union bylaws that prevents the MLBPA from doing that, but it's weird that Weiner changed his tune on the matter.
The bottom line is this is another steroid scandal that is making baseball look foolish and incompetent.
Until something changes in terms of punishment, PED use will continue to happen—no matter how many players get angry about others using.
Players can cheat, subsequently be suspended and then come back like nothing ever happened. For some, like Melky Cabrera—even with a PED suspension—a decent-sized contract can be had in free agency.
Nothing is going to stop athletes from trying to get an advantage unless punishments are stricter.
Does that mean baseball needs to move to a two-strikes rule or void a contract if a player is suspended for PED use?
If that's what it takes, then that's what needs to happen.
Until it does, baseball will continue to look bad because of guys like Rodriguez.
The appeals process is a joke, and the time it's seemingly going to take is an even bigger joke. In the time it takes the process to complete, Rodriguez could change baseball history in some way.
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