The Yankees’ season is long over, but third baseman Alex Rodriguez walked on Wednesday in New York. A-Rod stormed out of an arbitration hearing for his appeal of a 211-game suspension issued by Major League Baseball for alleged steroid use. Later that day, Rodriguez told the YES television network and WFAN radio he walked out after learning MLB commissioner Bud Selig would not testify at the hearing. Wendy Thurm has been writing about A-Rod’s case for FanGraphs.com. She joined Bill to discuss the proceedings.
BL: After the arbitrator ruled that Commissioner Selig did not have to come to New York to testify, Alex Rodriguez and his legal team announced that they were scrapping plans for the slugger to testify Friday. Good move or bad move by Rodriguez?
WT: Well I’m not convinced that that is in fact what the decision making process was. It may be that they had concluded they weren’t going to have Rodriguez testify in any event and decided to use the arbitrator’s decision to not order Bud Selig to testify as a cover. That being said, you know it’s very hard for me to gauge because I haven’t seen the evidence. Major League Baseball has the burden to prove that Rodriguez took performance enhancing drugs and that the suspension was justified. His lawyers may have concluded that MLB didn’t meet its burden and that there was no need for him to testify.
BL: Pretty high drama though. Slamming the desk and kicking a briefcase on the way out. All planned?
WT: You know, that I’m not really sure. From the perspective of an outsider, I think you can build a narrative around the fact that it was premeditated or at least it was discussed in advance that if Selig wasn’t ordered to appear that he would make a stink. That there’d be a big PR push. So whether it was exactly planned to a T — I’m not sure. But there’s definitely a sense of orchestration of what happened after he left the room on Wednesday.
BL: Doesn’t it kind of go against Rodriguez that everyone else who was suspended in the context of this case involving the Biogenesis and its owner Tony Bosch has said, ‘yeah, I did it. I’ll take my suspension’ and he’s the only one who’s said, ‘no, I didn’t do it. I’m not connected with this guy in so far as performance enhancing drugs are concerned.’
WT: You know, I think from the public perception, absolutely. But again, you know I mean, Major League Baseball didn’t treat Rodriguez the same way they treated others. By pursuing such a long suspension and by charging him with obstruction of the investigation, they put a lot more at issue and a lot more of their credibility on the line, too. So we’ll see.
BL: Alex Rodriguez also has a lawsuit pending against Major League Baseball for interfering with his contract and his other business dealings. Where does that stand at this point?
WT: Major League Baseball has moved it to federal court and asked the court to dismiss the case entirely. For his part, Rodriguez has a motion pending before the federal judge to say, ‘this shouldn’t even be before you. It was removed improperly and we should go back to state court.’
Rodriguez’s lawyers have said unless he comes up with a goose egg, unless he says no suspension at all, they’re going to go to court and fight it. The question is whether a court will enjoin the arbitrator’s decision. Once the arbitrator’s decision is final, he will in fact be suspended under the collective bargaining agreement. Then he, Rodriguez, would need to go get a court to basically enjoin Major League Baseball — stop Major League Baseball from enforcing that suspension. But, it’s going to be a tough nut to crack. When you have a collective bargaining agreement and you have a very specific disciplinary and grievances process, typically the federal courts, or all courts, don’t intervene.
BL: Having listened to your analysis of this whole rigmarole, I can only come up with the one conclusion that numbers of lawyers are getting rich.
WT: Yeah, there are a lot of lawyers involved.