Despite being suspended for the remainder of the season and all of the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, Alex Rodriguez returned to the New York Yankees Monday night amid a crowd of media members, fans, and teammates with differing opinions. A-Rod singled in his first at bat, going 1-4 in his first game since the 2012 playoffs, an 8-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Technically, A-Rod has until Thursday to accept his punishment, or to appeal his suspension, which he most certainly will do. Once that occurs, he will have the case reviewed by an independent arbitrator. Since the 211-game suspension is the largest ever given to a player for non-gambling, it will be doubtful that the entire penalty is upheld, but only time will tell.
MLB suspended A-Rod “based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years,” and “by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation” MLB said in a statement released Monday.
The embattled former three-time Most Valuable Player made a case for sympathy when he spoke to the media before the game. “”I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight through the process,” Rodriguez said, while avoiding direct questions as to whether he used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).
The Bronx Bomber, who makes $148,587 per game, and would lose over $31 if he was suspended for 211 games, said he was “eager to get back on the field” and talked about his reasons for seeking the appeal. “”I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.” His lawyers will most certainly defend him, as A-Rod talked about the period that encompassed the MLB investigation. “The last seven months have been a nightmare. Probably the worst time of my life.”
This ‘nightmare’ will now follow the New York Yankees for every game, with none bigger than the first appearance of Alex Rodriguez in pinstripes, which will take place on Friday, when they host the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez, in a plea for sympathy that he is receiving from some, said “I’m fighting for my life.” I doubt those sympathetic will outnumber those who dislike him, and expect boos to rain down on the slugger Friday evening.
Truth be told, the penalties that MLB have in place for use of PEDs are not nearly tough enough to discourage it. A-Rod is the perfect example. He has made hundreds of millions of dollars playing baseball, and, even though he has been suspended, the appeals process in the collective bargaining agreement allows him to continue to play while earning his lofty paychecks. Only the immediate voiding of a player’s contract will discourage the use of PEDs. A-Rod is fighting for $31 million of the over $100 million still owed to him on a 10-year deal. As is often the case, it is about the money, and boosting one’s numbers illegally leads to larger contracts, and only the loss of that money can stop it.