It is official, arbitrator Frederic Horowitz has levied his ruling in regards to New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and it has not gone well for the embattled slugger. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the suspension is for 162 games (or the entire 2014 season) and Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports follows up by noting that the suspension will include the 2014 postseason.
In response to the suspension, Rodriguez issued the following statement via his Facebook page.
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man’s decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB’s first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.
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.
I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal.”
Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes that while the MLB Players’s Union does not agree with the decision handed down against A-Rod, they do agree with the process in place and therefore will not fight the ruling. That means A-Rod will proceed to a federal court without the aid of his own union fighting for him and also having that as a possible obstacle in the eyes of the court.
So while A-Rod will have his hands full, this remains somewhat of a bittersweet ruling for both the Yankees and the rest of the American League East.
For the Yankees, they will receive $24.3 million in luxury tax threshold relief (again according to Joel Sherman), which will allow them to address other needs and perhaps stay under the $189 million luxury tax threshold for the first time. However, while that may mean then have more mean in which to chase after Masahiro Tanaka, Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana (or all of the above), the suspension also opens up another substantial hole for the Yankees at third base. Regardless of whether or not they wanted the salary relief, the Yankees will not be able to find a suitable replacement for A-Rod in a pool of players that include Mark Reynolds, Yuniesky Betancourt, Wilson Betemit, Chris Nelson, Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton, or Michael Young.
For the rest of the American League East, including the Toronto Blue Jays, this could mean a few things. First and foremost, the Yankees need pitching, which does not bode well for the Blue Jays. With A-Rod’s salary relief, they could feasibly go all out on Tanaka, as well as signing either Jimenez or Santana. The added spending flexibility of the Yankees will also allow the aforementioned free agents to push their asking prices higher knowing that the Yankees are fully invested in the party now. The Yankees could opt to address those needs and find a short-term solution at third base at a bargain price, allowing them to focus their spending power where they need it most.
However, if the Yankees decide to make a different move at third base, like trading for Chase Headley with a heavier financial commitment, they could be reduced to landing only one of their coveted targets. However, with A-Rod’s suspension only for one season and his contract running through the 2017 season, a short-term signing seems the most likely solution here.
For the Blue Jays, this spells trouble in addressing their own pitching needs. The team doesn’t seem poised to win a bidding war between the Yankees and Dodgers for Tanaka, nor would they like to enter into one for the likes of either Santana, Jimenez, or even Matt Garza. They could see what happens in the fall-out and try to scoop up whomever is left standing, but with other teams still looking for pitching at well, that could work against them.
Regardless, the A-Rod ruling is a win for Major League Baseball and their fight against performance-enhancing substances. It proves that the process works and that both parties are on-board with cleaning up the game. A federal court will have a hard time throwing out a ruling against A-Rod in a collectively-bargained process, especially one in which the players union is choosing not to fight in its own right.
Chalk one up for the good guys.