I've been amused by how many people seem surprised that Alexander Rodríguez is exercising his right to appeal what seems, from an outsider's perspective, a draconian punishment. For as the Associated Press reported Wednesday, appeal he will:
The other 12 players accepted 50-game suspensions, but Rodriguez said he planned to fight. Union head Michael Weiner said the punishment for the third baseman was ''way out of line.''
Rodriguez is allowed to keep playing until Wednesday's grievance is heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who isn't expected to rule until November or December at the earliest.
There are "some" who say Rodríguez should have been a good boy and simply accepted his suspension without complaint. To which I respond, "You first."
The great majority of Americans, when confronted with some disciplinary action, will exhaust every possibility before suffering the maximum punishment. Generally this falls under the heading of "due process". But because Alex Rodríguez is Alex Rodríguez, we prefer him to keep his mouth shut and take it like a man. And perhaps ask for another, please sir.
Like I said, you first.
Leaving that aside, though, does he actually have a case?
I wouldn't bet against him. Michael Weiner has been highly circumspect on this subject lately, raising nary a complaint about the Biogenesis investigation or the resulting 50-game suspensions. So when he describes something as "way out of line," we should probably take him seriously.
Granted, we haven't seen the evidence that Major League Baseball will marshal, when Rodríguez's grievance is heard. But I find that question just semi-relevant.
Historically, suspensions have been tied to two things: procedure, and precedent.
Fail a drug test the first time, and (according to procedure, as stipulated by the Collective Bargaining Agreement) you're suspended for 50 games.
Engage in on-the-field fisticuffs with another player, and (according to precedent) you're suspended for a few games. Yes, Bud Selig might decide to suspend you for more than a few games -- say, 25 games rather than 5 -- but if he does that, you'll appeal and you'll win. Because there is no precedent for a 25-game suspension.
The same principle, I think, applies here. It's clear that Bud Selig has some latitude here, because no procedure called for Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension. Nor did any precedent. It might have been a small overreach, but there was apparently little for Braun to gain by arguing over an extra 15 games. And as I mentioned here, taking the suspension this season is good for both Braun's bank account and the Brewers' chances in 2014. The positives tied to accepting an "extra" 15 games probably outweighed the negatives.
What would Alex Rodríguez possibly have gained by meekly submitting to Commissioner Bud's punishment? The undying love of Jon Heyman? Probably not:
The length of suspension was said by baseball players union chief Michael Weiner to be "almost ridiculous."
I agree. It is ridiculous.
It's too light.
A-Rod got 50 games for violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement.
And 161 more for chutzpah.
That's a good line! Nothing like a bit of Yiddish to spice up a baseball column.
I'm not sure an arbitrator will be super-impressed, though.
Sure, the Ryan Braun suspension suggests some penalty for chutzpah. But a 15-game chutzpah penalty doesn't create the precedent for a 161-game chutzpah penalty. Braun got the penalty he got because Bud Selig doesn't want to see him again this season. Rodríguez got the penalty he got because Bud Selig doesn't want to see him again this season or next season ... supposedly Selig's last as Commissioner.
Again, I'm not sure how super-impressed the arbitrator's going to be.
So I'll just ask you (since Jon Heyman's not sitting here next to me) ... If you were Alex Rodríguez and Commissioner Bud levied a punishment you figured wouldn't withstand an appeal, would you roll over anyway?
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.
I'll be semi-surprised if the arbitrator ever rules on this one. I think what's most likely is a postseason settlement, with the final figure much closer to 50 games than 211. Which, leaving aside all that chutzpah, seems fair enough to me. According to procedure and precedent. Without which, what do we have?