MLB, A-Rod arbitration hearing to begin Monday
Yankees veteran is appealing 211-game suspension he was given in August
Monday in New York, Major League Baseball will begin presenting its case that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez used performance-enhancing substances obtained from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, and that he also recruited other players for the now-defunct South Florida business and interfered with its investigation into the case.
Rodriguez, who was given a 211-game suspension in August, was one of 14 players to be disciplined after the investigation of biogenesis, but he was the only one to appeal. The others, each of whom was suspended for between 50-65 games, have now completed their suspensions.
MLB has compiled what has widely been described as voluminous and incriminating evidence against Rodriguez and is expected to lead off its case with the testimony of Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch, who will be asked to authenticate and explain documents MLB has acquired, plus text messages and emails between Bosch and Rodriguez about doping.
Rodriguez, who has retained an array of lawyers, private investigators and public relations specialists, is expected to respond by attacking the credibility of Bosch -- who agreed to cooperate with MLB's investigation in return for having a lawsuit filed against him dropped -- and the methods baseball used to gather its information. MLB further agreed to pay Bosch's legal expenses and indemnify him against future litigation that might emerge from his testimony.
The defense is also likely to contend that MLB overreached by hitting Rodriguez with a harsher penalty than the other suspended players, including Brewers star Ryan Braun.
MLB's lead representative will be executive vice president, economics and league affairs Rob Manfred. Rodriguez's team will be headed by labor attorneys David Prouty and Ian Penny from the Major League Baseball Players Association. Prouty replaces MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner, who is battling brain cancer.
In the end, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will be tasked with answering two deceptively simple questions: Did Rodriguez break baseball's rules by using PEDs? And, if so, is MLB's punishment appropriate?
Unlike salary arbitration, Horowitz does not have to choose one side or the other. He has the authority to hand down a decision that is a compromise between upholding baseball's decision and dismissing the case entirely.
Selig emphasized at the most recent Owner Meetings in August that there is absolutely no vendetta against Rodriguez.
"All this business about personal likes and dislikes is just nonsense," Selig said at the time. "You do what you think is in the best interest of the sport, based on the evidence that you have.
"I can't control what other people say and do. I have a job to do, and the job is to protect the integrity of the sport and enforce our program, and that's what I'm going to do. And it's no more involved than that, and that's exactly what it is.
"I spent many, many hours thinking about it, trying to be fair, trying to be logical and rational. I wouldn't second-guess it at all. I know why I did it and what I did. I thought it was eminently fair then, and I think it's eminently fair today.
"We're proud that we have the toughest drug testing in all of American sport, proud that WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] -- I keep going back to WADA's statement because they are the gold standard, and when they tell you we're doing great, that makes me feel very good. But to have an effective program it has to be enforced aggressively, and should be."
Rodriguez, for his part, said over the weekend in Houston that he's looking forward to the hearing and is glad the matter is being addressed expeditiously.
"I'm excited," Rodriguez told reporters. "This has been a burden, a big burden. Let's get it on. … Better to face it head on. The one thing I didn't want was for it to be like December 14. A: it's not fair to the Yankees, B: it's not fair to baseball. Let's go, you know what I mean?"
Rodriguez will attend the hearings, but it is unclear if he'll testify.
Rodriguez would not say if he would consider a reduced penalty a victory.
"I'm not going to get into that," said Rodriguez. "I'm not going to get into my expectations. I'm fighting for my life and my whole baseball legacy."
And there is the issue of his salary, of course. Rodriguez's contract calls for base salaries of a total of $86 million over the next four years. He's 38 years old and coming off serious hip surgery, so even if his suspension is reduced to just the 2014 season, it would likely take a tremendous effort for him to resume his career after a year off.
Horowitz will be available all week to hear testimony. If the hearings can't be wrapped up in that time, there are future dates reserved. A decision is expected sometime in November.