If Alex Rodriguez is intent on appealing his looming suspension in an effort to stay on the field and protect his contract, commissioner Bud Selig is prepared to throw the book at the steroid-stained Yankee by invoking one of his office’s most extreme privileges — the right to take action against a player to preserve the integrity of the game, the Daily News has learned.
By invoking that rarely used power — embodied in Article XI, Section A1b of the game’s collective bargaining agreement — Selig would attempt to effectively keep Rodriguez from ever returning to the field by bypassing the grievance procedure outlined in the joint drug program MLB operates in conjunction with the Players’ Association, sources told The News.
Rodriguez would be suspended immediately for interfering with MLB’s year-long investigation into Biogenesis, the South Florida anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied performance-enhancing drugs to the aging infielder and other players, and would later be hit with an additional suspension for violating baseball’s drug program.
MLB investigators believe Rodriguez attempted to intimidate witnesses and purchase incriminating documents to keep them out of the hands of baseball officials.
In an unprecedented action by a commissioner, suspensions for Rodriguez — once the sport’s biggest star — and 14 other players are expected to be announced imminently.
According to the CBA, the commissioner hears appeals of any discipline handed down under Article XI, Section A1b. Rodriguez would have 30 days to appeal a suspension.
There is, however, another provision of the basic agreement that would give Rodriguez the opportunity to ask the arbitrator to decide if any punishment Selig decides to impose is excessive. That section of the collective bargaining agreement opens the door for Rodriguez to ask arbitrator Frederic Horowitz to determine if the punishment handed down by Selig is disproportionate. Horowitz, however, does not have the right to stay A-Rod’s suspension, or overturn it.
Not so fast, A-Rod. MLB commissioner Bud Selig is prepared to use the ‘preserve the integrity of the game’ power to keep Yankee out of baseball if he appeals looming suspension.
Punishing Rodriguez under that clause could lead to an unprecedented legal showdown between MLB, Rodriguez and the players’ union. Selig – who frequently cites baseball’s ongoing labor peace as one of his greatest achievements as commissioner – may decide invoking his broad “best interests of baseball” powers may not be worth the smack-down that might follow.
But whether such hostilities break out depends upon how damning the evidence is that MLB gathered during its long investigation of Rodriguez. MLB investigators believe they have a mountain of evidence that shows Rodriguez attempted to interfere in their investigation.
Selig is believed to be so determined to keep Rodriguez from ever stepping on a Major League Baseball field again that he is risking a reopening of the collective bargaining agreement or even a federal court case with his decision to bypass the usual grievance procedures and exercise his power to take action on an issue “involving the preservation of the integrity of, or the maintenance of public confidence in, the game of baseball.”
By basing his treatment of Rodriguez on that clause, Selig is effectively bypassing the arbitration-based procedures in place for doping cases, which are laid out in the Joint Drug Agreement, baseball’s collectively bargained anti-doping policy, and putting the appeals process in his own hands.
The Selig suspension of Rodriguez would in effect supersede baseball’s suspension of him for multiple violations of the joint drug agreement. However, sources told The News that the drug suspension would be then imposed during the time Rodriguez was serving the initial ban for impeding the investigation.
If the Players’ Association decides to open the CBA, it would still find it difficult to defend Rodriguez because many of its players have abandoned support for the Yankees’ disgraced third baseman.
As the Daily News reported on Monday, A-Rod’s handlers have recently engaged in talks with MLB officials through the Players’ Association about a possible deal. Baseball executives believe they have gathered enough evidence to warrant a lifetime ban but might be willing to accept a settlement that would call for a lesser penalty if the third baseman agrees not to fight it.
New York Daily News
According to a source familiar with the discussions between MLB officials and A-Rod’s representatives, if Rodriguez accepted a settlement that would call for him to be suspended for the rest of this year and the entire 2014 season without pay, he would still have a chance to collect the $ 60 million the Yankees would owe him from 2015 to 2017.
But it is unclear if MLB officials — who are believed to have gathered hundreds of emails, text messages and phone records that show Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs in 2010, 2011 and 2012 — would even agree to a reduced penalty.
The Daily News reported earlier this month that Rodriguez’s handlers had begun internal discussions about a possible settlement.
When asked during an interview with ESPN radio on Monday if MLB officials had approached Rodriguez’s advisers about a settlement, attorney David Cornwell said no. But he never ruled out a potential deal. Instead, he said Team A-Rod was focusing on what it will do after a suspension is handed down.
“We are still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter,” Cornwell said.
Cornwell said he believes the next step in the Biogenesis matter will be for MLB officials to meet with the Players’ Association to discuss the evidence gathered against each player linked to the case.
It does not seem likely A-Rod will wear pinstripes again as he is expected to be tossed from the game for a very long time for his alleged involvement with Biogenesis.
“Either through the Players’ Association or directly, we would be working toward gaining an understanding of the evidence and getting ourselves ready for an appeal,” Cornwell said.
Yankee catcher Francisco Cervelli, another player linked to the now-defunct South Florida clinic, also faces a 50-game ban.
Not all of the players linked in media reports to Biogenesis face discipline, sources have told The News. In some cases, MLB investigators simply did not gather enough evidence of wrongdoing. Other players, such as Melky Cabrera, may not be punished because they already have been suspended as a result of their links to Biogenesis and its owner, self-styled “biochemist” Anthony Bosch.
That probe that will likely result in Rodriguez’s suspension began following The News’ report last August that the former Yankee Cabrera and his associates had attempted to subvert a 50-game suspension by claiming a legal product had caused a positive drug test. MLB investigators quickly determined that Cabrera and his associates were bluffing, in part because a website for the product Cabrera claimed had caused his positive test had been created shortly before he met with baseball officials.
That investigation ultimately resulted in the suspension last week of former National League MVP Ryan Braun for the remainder of the season.
According to a source, Rodriguez and his handlers infuriated Selig last week when they asked Michael Gross, the chief of sports medicine and the orthopedic director at Hackensack University Medical Center, to review an MRI of the quad injury the Yankees say has kept Rodriguez from joining the club.
Gross said in multiple interviews with the media that he did not see any indication of injury on the MRI, apparently verifying Team A-Rod’s claim that the Yankees were trying to keep the aging infielder off the field.
That strategy blew up, however, after SNY-TV’s “Daily News Live” first reported that the New Jersey Attorney General’s office had reprimanded Gross in February for “failing to adequately supervise proper patient treatment involving the prescription of hormones including steroids.” New Jersey officials said Gross, who was fined $ 40,000, had allowed an unlicensed associate to participate in the care and treatment of patients.