Major League Baseball took what it hopes to be a deciding step in the war against PED’s handing out suspensions to nine players including Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta among others. Every player connected to the Biogenesis report got 50 games with the exception of repeat offenders (in the public’s mind) Ryan Braun and Rodgriguez. Braun chose not to appeal and received a season-long ban.
However, the Biogenesis suspension of 211 games was handed down yesterday to Alex Rodriguez a player who like many, took illegal substances. His bigger suspension comes from his attempts to intimidate witnesses, obstruct justice in a diligent attempt to cover his PED use up. On the surface, a 211 game suspension smells of impunity, that’s the longest time handed out since Pete Rose got caught betting on baseball. MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is trying to do a lot with this suspension; first he’s trying to erase the steroid era from our memories by making an example of a really big star. By doing that, he’s trying to atone for indirectly encouraging the use in the McGwire-Sosa days which resuscitated the sport. He’s also putting the other major sports (NFL, NBA) on notice. These sports may start to look at lot closer at PED’s now that baseball has tried to set this tone.
What about the New York Yankees? They wanted a suspension, but not this long. This wipes any hope that he would retire as anything but a Yankee. Leading up to this, you got the feeling they were weary of A-Rod. Of course, the suspension will be appealed by A-Rod putting everyone in an awkward position for awhile. For now the Yankees will likely put on the corporate face and probably refrain from making the types of comments they were back in June, etc. Fact is, Alex Rodriguez is 99% guilty of doing what he is accused of and the Yankees wish he would go away. But he isn’t going to go away, instead the circus is coming to town.
But then the Yankees are in a tough position with Alex Rodriguez he has an untradeable contract, aging with talent, but overall declining skills. But more importantly he’s imminently unlikable; he’s comes off as disingenuous, spoiled and honestly kind of a diva. None of these things are what being a true Yankee is about, if you had to ask a Yankee fan. But so was Barry Bonds, who was spared the same type of vitriol since San Francisco isn’t the media market New York is.
Case in point; Alex Rodriguez has been “hurt” all season, but for some reason can play now that he is suspended. He wants to show the world he can still play and the Yankees needing his bat are going to let him until the legal process runs its course. There’s some fan sympathy with A-Rod that could grow if he were to bring New York back out of its offensive doldrums; he’s being made the steroid pariah at a time when the Yankees have been an afterthought. The conventional wisdom says The Evil Empire has turned their backs on him but secretly is probably curious if he can aid them in their quest for a slipping away division crown.
Then the actual act of hitting a baseball weighs in. Alex Rodriguez could do it better than only a handful of players before or now. His numbers are Ruthian, plain and simple. And when it comes to hitting, the Yankees need him right now whether they want to admit it or not. The Yankees haven’t had this woeful of an offense in generations; not since the Kevin Maas-Yanks of 1990 featured an offense this inept. They’re 25th in major league baseball in runs scored. Their third baseman have collectively hit (.194 -6-54) and their other signings (Ichiro Suzuki, Vernon Wells, Kevin Youkilis) have all battled injuries and ineffectiveness. Alex Rodriguez is better right now than any of the guys they have playing third (Brent Lillibridge? C’mon).
But when all that factors in it the Yankees brand, or baseball’s brand is more important than its most unlikeable, controversial, overpaid player. As all of us have done in relationships or jobs gone bad, the MLB is trying to run from its past. We omit bad experiences off of our resumes or LinkedIn profiles, baseball wanted to hand him a lifetime ban. The Yankees probably didn’t want A-Rod suspended that long, since some in the organization feel he could still be traded for some semblance of value, and would gladly eat large amounts of his $105 million contract just to trade him to someone, anyone.
But that isn’t going to happen. Alex Rodriguez will be made the poster child of the steroid era, not Bonds or Clemens because they didn’t lie and try to cover it up to the extent that Alex Rodriguez did, and they weren’t imminently unlikable for a decade prior to being exposed. Rodriguez will probably wind up being suspended for some games in 2013, and probably 60-70 games for 2014. The Yankees, depending on what happens in the offseason may very well continue their commitment to small ball and homegrown talent and just cut him. They in effect would be daring any team to sign MLB’s marked man and like a late-era Terrell Owens or Barry Bonds he will sit. And wait. And wait some more.