After all the public bluster, the radio interviews and accusations of organizational malfeasance, New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez may wind up taking a reduced suspension in his fight with Major League Baseball after all.
ESPN's Wallace Matthews spoke to a source within Rodriguez's camp who indicated the three-time American League MVP is seriously considering accepting a lesser penalty for his alleged violations of MLB's performance-enhancing-drug policy. Rodriguez is currently appealing the 211-game doping ban levied by the commissioner's office in August.
The case has since been at the desk of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, whose decision Wallace reports could be coming by the end of the week.
Horowitz is presiding over his first high-profile case as MLB's arbitrator, so there is no preexisting knowledge of where his loyalties typically lie—with management or a player. Under his agreement with MLB, Horowitz has the power to uphold MLB's punishment, throw it out entirely or render some middle-ground judgment.
Rodriguez's softening stance may be a sign that the arbitration hearings have not gone to his liking. Sources told ESPN that the 14-time All-Star has grown weary of the financial implications of his fight with MLB, with lawyer fees that could approach eight figures being paid out of pocket.
"All of this has been presented to Alex and he is weighing his options," the source said. "In certain situations it may not make much sense to continue to fight."
Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun accepted what amounted to a 65-game ban for his admitted use of performance-enhancing drugs, which was revealed following an investigation into the Miami-based Biogenesis clinic. Others, including free-agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, the St. Louis Cardinals' Jhonny Peralta and the San Diego Padres' Everth Cabrera, accepted a 50-game suspension without appeal.
Rodriguez's suspension made waves because it dwarfed that of any other player. Originally suspended through the 2014 season, the Yankees star's ban has essentially boiled down to 211 total games. Rodriguez, 38, has denied all allegations but has recently seemed resigned to the fact that some form of suspension is coming.
In November, he stormed out of an arbitration hearing after commissioner Bud Selig refused to testify. While it is atypical for Selig to personally plead MLB's case—it has never been done—Rodriguez looked at it as an indicator that the system was rigged against him.
"I'm done. I don't have a chance," Rodriguez said in an interview with WFAN, per the Associated Press' Ronald Blum.
"I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails," Rodriguez 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."
Rodriguez's outcry has subsided in recent weeks, but his potential acceptance of a suspension has its limits. Wallace reports that Rodriguez and his attorneys will only accept a ban of more than 100 games, and the parties plan on filing an injunction in federal court. This temporary reprieve would allow Rodriguez to play in the interim, should the situation extend into the 2014 season.
Much of the wrangling here, if not all on Rodriguez's part, is financially motivated. He is due a $25 million salary from the Yankees in 2014, and a 100-game ban would cost him more than $15 million—about $5 million greater than the cost of continuing his fight.
The Yankees will also be looking forward to Horowitz's decision, as it could determine their spending into next summer. New York has already been active on the free-agent market, but it's possible a lengthy Rodriguez suspension could loosen the purse strings for a massive bid on Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.
No matter the result, though, it appears Horowitz's decision could have a massive domino effect.