By Steve Kallas
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It's not hard to believe that Bud Selig and the powers-that-be in Major League Baseball could screw up the whole A-Rod situation. After all, here's a commissioner who fiddled through the 1990s and into the 21st Century while MLB burned performance enhancing drugs run amok, no World Series in 1994, etc. while taking unbelievable bows for the "progress" of the game (here a wild card, there a wild card, everywhere a wild card, wild card, as baseball became the last major sport to let losers win).
But what has confronted the commissioner and the powers-that-be must be beyond their collective comprehension. There had to have been someone (anyone?) with a brain in the room to tell the commissioner that, by all means, his number one goal should have been to get A-Rod off the field for these last games of the 2013 baseball season (and, yes, this is being written by a lifelong Yankee fan.)
HOW DID SELIG AND MLB SCREW UP THE A-ROD SITUATION?
Well, that's easy. According to a number of reports, the commissioner was "livid" when he heard A-Rod's comments that fateful Friday from Trenton, New Jersey (just before A-Rod's Monday return to the big time) about the conspiracy against him. Apparently, again according to a number of reports, A-Rod's "representatives" (and what a group that is) were trying to work out a "settlement" where, depending upon what report (if any) you believe, A-Rod would take a suspension of 50 or even 100 games rather than look at an even longer (and, perhaps, a lifetime) ban.
But, apparently, at that point (the Friday before A-Rod returned), Bud Selig and MLB decided to end all negotiations with A-Rod and his people with respect to any settlement. Indeed, there were reports that the Players Association reached out to MLB over that weekend on A-Rod's behalf and were rebuffed.
So the stupidity of it all is that MLB was at 214 games or so and A-Rod was at 50 or 100 games. MLB should have tried to get A-Rod to agree to some number within that range and suspend him (ala Ryan Braun, another now-admitted cheater/liar) immediately with no arbitration necessary.
But apparently, Bud Selig's being livid ended all that.
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF MLB HAD DONE THIS?
Very little, and that's the point. There would have been no circus (and, yes, wherever A-Rod goes and plays, and he's playing very well, it's a circus) in every ball park that A-Rod plays in. There would have been no Ryan Dempster fiasco, where another umpire (Brian O'Nora) with no feel for the game, failed to warn Dempster after his first pitch sailed behind A-Rod and failed to eject Dempster after he finally hit A-Rod after three tries (maybe four).
There would have been no embarrassing post-game press conference when Dempster was asked if he had hit A-Rod on purpose (you know the answer to that question). The embarrassing part of that press conference is not that the question was asked (it had to be) but, rather, that nobody asked Dempster how it was that he wanted to pitch A-Rod inside the first at-bat and then got nowhere near him for six pitches in the second at-bat, going middle-outside on every pitch.
If asked that question, Dempster probably would have said that, since both sides had been warned, he was afraid to go inside to A-Rod for fear of being thrown out of the game. If he was smart/dumb enough to say that, then the next question should have been, "If you weren't trying to hit A-Rod his first time up, how is it you had no control during his first at-bat and perfect control (middle-outside with five of six pitches being outside) during his second at-bat?"
An unanswerable question to be sure, but never asked. You get the point.
HOW DID MLB EVEN MESS UP THE DEMPSTER SITUATION?
Again, that's easy. By giving Dempster only five games, with the Red Sox having two off days in the next week, MLB essentially gave him a pass (so he will pitch the sixth game instead of the fifth game). This was pointed out by numerous people before any suspension was handed down, but it apparently didn't dawn on MLB.
While it won't amount to "open season" on A-Rod, as Joe Girardi suggested, it once again shows the lack of feel, the lack of understanding on the part of the commissioner and MLB. To make matters even dumber, MLB fined Dempster $2500, while fining Joe Girardi $5000 for arguing with the home plate umpire who was the only one in the ballpark who didn't know what was going on.
After Dempster hit A-Rod, many "don't get it" announcers were discussing on the air which member of the Red Sox would be hit by C. C. Sabathia (John Sterling actually announced on the radio broadcast that C. C. would "have to" hit somebody).
Even announcers with no feel for the game don't get it. There should be (and, it says here, will be) a payback for the A-Rod plunking (not a "beaning" (that means you are hit in the head) as John Kruk mistakenly said) at the appropriate time.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
You know that a lot of players dislike A-Rod for a variety of reasons. Whether it's that he's a liar or a cheater or a Yankee or arrogant or rich or has a gigantic ego, many simply don't like him. But when presumably intelligent players like John Lackey and Evan Longoria state that A-Rod shouldn't be playing pending his suspension, they must have forgotten what country they are in. Or, at least, what collectively bargained for agreement they and their representatives collectively bargained for.
Like it or not, A-Rod has never been suspended under the drug policy. So, the notion that he can't play, when you specifically can play under the CBA while your appeal is being heard, is beyond stupid. Now, while both of those players are, not surprisingly, in the AL East, they should have tried to step back and see the bigger picture; that is, that if you were suspended (that would mean anybody, not just A-Rod) and couldn't play until your appeal is resolved (in your favor), you would be guilty until proven innocent. As A-Rod, like him or not, has correctly pointed out, we are still in America.
THIS IS NOT TO SUPPORT A-ROD
On the contrary, there is no doubt that A-Rod is a liar and a cheater. The lying part? Well, he lied to everybody a few years ago and actually had the gall to go on national TV and lie to Katie Couric, saying he had never done PEDs. Of course, he came out in 2009 and admitted that he had used PEDs in 2001 and 2002 and 2003, citing the "pressure" of the large contract he had signed with Texas before the 2001 season.
How long has A-Rod been using PEDs? Another fascinating question. We know he used them from 2001-2003. It was hard to believe that, if he used them because of the "pressure" of his big contract in Texas (where they won 73, 72 and 71 games, respectively, in his three years there), he would then stop using them in 2004 when he went to the greatest sports pressure cooker on earth, Yankee Stadium.
MLB seems to think they can prove that A-Rod used PEDs in 2010 and 2011 and 2012. If so (and we haven't seen the proof, although, apparently A-Rod has), it's not a stretch to believe that A-Rod has been using PEDs for the entire time.
After you see the proof, draw your own conclusions.
WHAT ABOUT SANDBAGGING A-ROD'S LATEST LAWYER
While new A-Rod attorney Joe Tacopina is known as a media-savvy lawyer, he certainly was ill-prepared for the sandbagging that Matt Lauer dropped on him on the Today Show. On the one hand, it's kind of sad that Matt Lauer would stoop to being a shill for MLB (Lauer presented Tacopina with a letter from MLB saying they would waive any confidentiality in order to discuss A-Rod's entire history in the case right after Tacopina said he would "love" to talk about it but couldn't due to confidentiality concerns). On the other, it shows that the normally media-savvy Tacopina simply wasn't prepared for such a sandbagging.
So, to recap: MLB looks foolish for stooping to such "sharp practice" (as the lawyers call it); Matt Lauer looks foolish for being an MLB shill; and Tacopina looks foolish for not anticipating such an action and for being unable to handle it on the air.
WHAT ABOUT THE ARBITRATION?
Ah, finally, the arbitration. While many have correctly stated that A-Rod and his "camp" won't directly answer the question of whether he used PEDs in 2010 and 2011 and 2012, many "experts" incorrectly (in this writer's opinion) state that the key part of the arbitration is whether A-Rod used PEDs. He probably did, but we haven't seen the proof.
The REAL battle is over the 211-game suspension. It's not 50 (first offense), it's not 100 (second offense). If anything, it seems to be "arbitrary and capricious" (as the lawyers like to say). This is where the real battle will be, and it says here that the suspension should be reduced to either 50 or 100 games.
WHO ARE THE LUCKIEST PEOPLE?
The luckiest people are the players who took their 50-game suspensions and have already faded out of the picture. Another very lucky guy is Ryan Braun, who now looks like a huge cheater/liar after taking his 65-game suspension and coming out with what best could be described as a well-scripted but feeble apology. Remember, Braun takes his 65-games when the Brewers are going nowhere and he will then collect the rest of his $138 million dollar contract starting next year.
To say his apology is a joke is to be kind to a guy who, more than anybody, else, was believed by many fans, teammates, players and others as a truth-teller.
WHAT ABOUT LEGACIES?
Ah, the legacies. A-Rod's legacy? An admitted (at least for 2001 and 2002 and 2003) cheater/liar with virtually no hope of getting into the Hall of Fame (although a winner now by playing and getting paid for at least the rest of this season and probably for a few years on the back end of his absurd (at the time he signed it and now) contract).
Bud Selig's legacy? Try as he might (and there are even some writers trying to re-write his legacy now), he's the commissioner who presided over most of the steroids era, who looked the other way while baseball was "saved'" by the now-joke home run chase of 1998 and who was one of the last to come to the PED party.
Baseball's legacy? Well, if an inanimate object can have a legacy, certainly baseball's has taken a hit. It's not cycling, but it's not good. While people will say that cheating in baseball has been going on forever (and it has), it's never been like it's been since the late 1980s (and who knew that Jose Canseco would tell the truth more than virtually everybody else?).
WHAT ABOUT THE FUTURE?
Despite MLB tripping all over itself to pat itself on the back, lost in the shuffle of the Biogenesis case is that NONE of these guys tested positive. They ALL "beat the system." If a disgruntled employee hadn't dropped a dime on the whole matter, we still might not know about it. So, as "comprehensive" as the drug testing may be, it still can be beaten. In an almost bizarre way, the Biogenesis case is proof positive that the system can be beaten. Are there other Biogenesis labs out there?
Who knows, but you won't be surprised if there are. Remember, ALL of these guys who got suspended will serve their suspensions, return to baseball and collect their fat paychecks.
And Pete Rose can't get back into the game or the Hall of Fame. It's laugh-out-loud funny.
What of the future of the drug suspensions? Well there is now a "movement" for much stiffer penalties for first-time offenders. Ban them for a year, ban them for life, suspend them immediately so they can't play during their appeal. Unfortunately, many players have forgotten that there are such things as false positives and due process.
Imagine the first time that John Lackey or Evan Longoria or another player has a false positive or takes something in an over-the-counter product that gives them a "real" positive. Do you think they will change their tune?
Yeah, so do I.
The players should be careful what they wish for.
And, yes, that's Marvin Miller spinning in his grave.
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