Reports: A-Rod suspension may be severe
MLB reportedly informs union which players face penalties
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's become increasingly difficult to predict what will happen next in the daily drama surrounding Alex Rodriguez. But according to an Associated Press report, A-Rod and other players involved with the Biogenesis investigation could learn their fates soon.
The AP reported that MLB informed the Players Association which players it plans to suspend and is working to reach agreements on penalties to avoid potential grievances. The talks with players could delay an announcement until Friday.
Rodriguez finished up his rehab assignment with complaints of a strained left quadriceps, only to say days later that he was ready to play. He sent Dr. Michael Gross on an impromptu media tour to challenge the Yankees' diagnosis, then Gross admitted he's never even met A-Rod. Rodriguez released a statement Thursday saying he didn't want "any more mix-ups" with the Yankees, then called into WFAN radio in New York and said four times that he was "frustrated" with being held back.
Rodriguez has been working out at the Yankees' Minor League complex, hoping to return from his quad injury and get back on the field as soon as possible. Aside from his occasional statements released through a publicist and a few radio interviews, A-Rod has remained silent.
But two things have become exceedingly clear, based on several reports published over the past few days: He soon will be disciplined by Major League Baseball, and the punishment will be severe.
Suspensions are expected to be issued later this week, according to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, who also noted that MLB would prefer to punish everyone involved with the Biogenesis clinic at once. The Associated Press reported Monday that Commissioner Bud Selig would consider sidestepping the Joint Drug Agreement entirely to serve Rodriguez with a lifetime ban.
Selig would have to invoke Article XII (B) of the Basic Agreement, which states that "players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law." In that case, Rodriguez would begin serving a suspension immediately rather than have it delayed during the appeals process.
If MLB acts according to its drug policy rather than the CBA, Rodriguez will either be served with a suspension or forced to reach an agreement for a lesser sentence. But Rodriguez's lawyer, David Cornwell, left no doubt Monday afternoon in a radio interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM: They're not going to negotiate an agreement, and they're going to appeal any sort of suspension.
"All I can tell you is my job is to represent Alex in connection with this inquiry by baseball and to prepare an appeal on behalf of Alex in the event that any discipline is handed down," Cornwell said in an interview with Stephen A. Smith.
"When the time comes, and we haven't gotten there yet, when the time comes and baseball does whatever it is going to do, then I will sit down with Alex and talk to him about the process of the appeal, filing the appeal and going in and presenting our best evidence that we have -- and we think we have good evidence -- to defend his interest, to protect him. That's what I expect to be doing."
The New York Post first reported Sunday that Rodriguez could be suspended this week as part of baseball's investigation into the now-shuttered Biogenesis clinic, a South Florida operation run by Anthony Bosch, who has cooperated with MLB investigators. Last week, Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun accepted a 65-game suspension -- the remainder of the season and postseason -- for his reported involvement with Bosch and Biogenesis.
Cornwell told ESPN New York he wouldn't consider that a victory for Rodriguez. Asked by Smith what he would consider a "win" in this case, Cornwell said, "No discipline. ... Obviously. That's easy."
According to the Post, MLB could suspend Rodriguez for the rest of this year and the entirety of the 2014 season. Under baseball's Basic Agreement, first-time offenders who test positive for performing-enhancing drugs are suspended 50 games for a positive test. A second positive test earns a 100-game ban and a third violation results in a lifetime ban.
The New York Daily News reported that MLB officials believe their evidence against Rodriguez "would warrant lifetime banishment." There has been talk that Braun's quick agreement strengthens Bosch's credibility as it relates to MLB's case against A-Rod, an idea that Cornwell addressed Monday.
"Obviously, they believe that he's credible. I have my concerns," said Cornwell, who previously represented Braun, the only Major League player to have a positive drug test overturned. "But what's most important is whether or not arbitrator [Fredric] Horowitz will believe that he's credible. That's something that we will present in the hearing room, not to the media."
Before a suspension is publicly issued, Rodriguez could choose to discuss a plea agreement with MLB, as Braun did. However, Rodriguez told WFAN's Mike Francesa on Thursday that his representatives hadn't had those discussions.
According to the Post, Rodriguez's team "met with MLB officials in the past few days," but not to discuss a settlement. Instead, A-Rod's representatives were just trying to "gain a better understanding of potential penalties."
If MLB is seeking a potential lifetime suspension for Rodriguez, who admitted in 2009 that he took performance-enhancing drugs while playing for the Rangers from 2001-03, then a settlement could result in him sitting out until 2015 without pay, according to the Daily News.
In that scenario, Rodriguez's suspension would be effective immediately. If the 38-year-old third baseman -- fifth on the all-time list with 647 career home runs -- is able to play after two major hip surgeries and two full years out of the game, it would also give him a chance to collect the $61 million the Yankees owe him from 2015-17, the remnants of the 10-year, $275 million deal he signed with New York in '07.
For now, it's uncertain when Rodriguez will get back on the field in a Major League game, if he will at all. But if the reports are true, the next chapter in A-Rod's story should be unfolding soon.
"I can't tell you what he's thinking about or what he says as it relates to the investigation, but I can tell you that in my discussions with him, generally, Alex's primary focus right now is playing baseball," Cornwell said. "That's what Alex's primary focus is right now. We'll have a chance to deal with these other issues as they arrive and as they unfold. ... When that time comes, we will. But until then ... the only thing Alex is focused on right now is trying to get back and play baseball."