The most difficult aspect of the never-ending Alex Rodriguez case is that it's hard to know where to set your willing suspension of disbelief (anywhere from the "Yeah, no, duh" of "Dog bites man" to the "Sorry, not buying that" of "Man bites dog while having a three-way with Immortal Living Elvis and a Venusian sentient lava-spider"), not to mention where to park your sympathy. The story that Rodriguez has been retailing is, frankly, closer to the lava-spider side of things. His side of the story, which he and one of his many attorneys advanced on New York's WFAN this afternoon, portrays him as a victim of a vendetta by Bud Selig and Major League Baseball.
For that to be true, you have to accept:
- That MLB and Commissioner Selig, as Rodriguez said, "Hates [his] guts" and for that reason were prepared to embark on a prosecution of a star player that damages the reputation of their products.
- That MLB is so inept, so evil, and so biased, that it is pursuing Rodriguez despite his having done, in his words, "With the Bosch nonsense? Nothing."
- That MLB is not only wrong in that, but in every single aspect of its prosecution.
- That questionable ethical conduct by MLB equates to or suggests innocence on Rodriguez's part.
- That Bud Selig thinks that destroying Rodriguez, more than interleague play or 20 years of labor peace, or an unprecedented stadium building and beautification movement, will be his legacy to the game, "and to put me on his mantle on the way out, that's a hell of a trophy."
- That Selig's refusal to testify indicates something about the legitimacy of the penalty Rodriguez has received, or that his testimony could somehow throw its legitimacy into doubt. (Rodriguez may or may not have the right to face his accuser in this private hearing, but Baseball had furnished Rob Manfred as a proxy for said accuser.)
- That MLB and/or Selig is concerned with the Yankees' payroll to the extent that Rodriguez's contract, which is large by the standards of a single player but a drop in the bucket for the industry as a whole, that they would go to incredible lengths to get the Yankees out of paying it.
- That a man with the financial resources to spend millions on his defense chose to consult with fake doctor Tony Bosch for "nutrition and weight loss" when it would have been cheaper and more productive to endow the Alex Rodriguez Nutrition and Weight Loss chair at Harvard.
My own suspension of disbelief struggles to overcome that last bit. It was F. Scott Fitzgerald who wrote the rich "are different from you and me" (to which Ernest Hemingway mythologically responded, "Yes, they have more money"). It is hard to think of a way in which they are more different than this: When you or I have a cold, we go to a doctor. If we have chest pains, we might seek out a cardiologist. Cancer? Oncologist. If you have good insurance and or great financial resources, perhaps you might even seek out the best, most expensive doctor in his respective field to treat you. What we don't do is seek out the most unqualified, fly-by-night, strip-mall/office-park-dwelling quack to treat our ills. Apparently being that stupid is a privilege that only the very wealthy possess.
One supposes that just like we cannot infer anything about the propriety of Alex Rodriguez's conduct by denigrating MLB's conduct (and that seems to be the logic of Rodriguez's defense), we cannot read anything into Rodriguez's relationship with Bosch from the sheer stupidity and unlikelihood of its very existence. Back in the bad old pre-union days, the first commissioner, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, banned players for life merely because they hung out with the wrong guys. "Your mere presence in the lineup would inevitably burden patrons of the game with grave apprehension as to its integrity," Landis told outfielder Benny Kauff in 1921 after "evil companions" were involved in stealing cars. Rodriguez has far greater rights of due process vis-à-vis Baseball than Kauff could have ever imagined, but if ever someone deserved to be suspended just for poor judgment in picking who he put on his payroll, that guy is Alex Rodriguez.
Having said that, that's not what this is about, but whether Alex Rodriguez violated the Joint Drug Agreement bargained between MLB and the Players Association, and if the 211-game suspension levied by Baseball, which departs from the schedule of penalties mandated by the JDA, was properly applied. Whether MLB's motives stem from really, really disliking Alex Rodriguez or because it thinks the sanctity of the JDA must be dramatically vindicated is irrelevant, so long as it can answer those two questions to the arbitrator's satisfaction. That Selig hates Rodriguez is interesting, but not necessarily relevant.
Similarly, if they engaged in questionable practices to obtain the evidence necessary to answer those questions, that isn't necessarily the same issue here that it would be in a court of law, where evidence can be tainted. Baseball has spent a lot of money to secure Tony Bosch's testimony. Fine. Consider him impeached. If he has texts to and from Alex Rodriguez discussing various chemical transactions, that testimony is not susceptible to financial inducement -- that is, the texts say what they say regardless of how compromised Bosch is.
The following exchange took place about halfway through the interview on WFAN:
Mike Francesa: There's not one thing you did?
Alex Rodriguez: No.
Francesa: Hey, I'd be fighting too if that's the case. Now, what is this all about then? What the heck is going on here? You are one of the biggest stars -- why would they do this?
Rodriguez: When they say it's not about the money, Mike, it's always about the money.
Rodriguez's contract, which makes you think a committee of farm animals would do a better job of running the Yankees, lasts through 2017, when he will be 42, and has a minimum of $86 million remaining on it, or about $22 million a year. Again, this is a lot of money in the life of any single franchise, even the Yankees, but is pocket change to the sport as a whole, a sport which depends on a cordial relationship with its players for its health. Unless Bud Selig is suffering from senile dementia and everyone around him has similarly lost their minds, this motive makes zero sense.
But again, motive has little to do with the case. Nor does the fairness of the arbitration and appeal procedure. That was collectively bargained by the union, acting as a proxy for Rodriguez and the rest of the players. He's a signatory to that agreement, and therefore Baseball's justice is the best he's likely to get -- at least for now. Wednesday's walkout/interview combo, which was almost certainly premeditated (read: staged), is a prelude to the next act, which will take place in court. Note a little slip by A-Rod attorney Jim McCarroll at 21:30 of the interview:
"There are multiple issues being played out in our suit against MLB. We'll deal with them in the appropriate forum.
That might be a reference to the suit Rodriguez has already filed against Selig and MLB, or to further legal action that will follow the verdict of these hearings. More than that, it's the trailer for the film of the sequel, the coming attractions at the theater in hell.