Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended for the entire 2014 regular season and postseason, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz ruled on Saturday.
Major League Baseball had sought a 211-game suspension based on what has been described as overwhelming evidence that Rodriguez not only obtained illegal performance-enhancing substances from the now-shuttered Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in South Florida, but also sought to hinder their investigation into those allegations.
Horowitz reduced that to 162 games, still the longest drug suspension and longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.
"For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights," MLB said in a statement. "While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game."
In a statement, the 38-year-old Rodriguez continued to proclaim his innocence and said he would appeal the decision in a federal court, even though courts rarely overturn arbitrator's decisions involving collectively bargained contracts.
"I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court," he said in the statement. "I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension."
If the ruling stands, Rodriguez will forfeit $22,131,147 of his 2014 base salary of $25 million. The '14 Major League season is defined as lasting 183 days, and with Rodriguez suspended for 162 games, he will be paid nearly $3 million for the remaining 21 days. His contract calls for an additional $61 million in base salaries from '15-'17, and Rodriguez will also receive $3 million on Wednesday -- part of the signing bonus he got when he inked his current contract in '07.
It also would give the Yankees more financial flexibility and a greater ability to stay under the luxury tax threshold in the upcoming season, theoretically increasing their ability to bid on Japanese free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka.
"The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel," the club said in a statement.
The Major League Baseball Players Association, which had participated in his defense, issued a statement in the wake of the ruling.
"The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the Arbitration Panel's decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez's unprecedented 211-game suspension," it read. "We recognize that final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the (Joint Drug Agreement), the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision."
The original 211-game suspension was handed down by Commissioner Bud Selig on Aug. 5 and was to go into effect on Aug. 8. Had Rodriguez accepted the suspension at that time, he would have missed the remainder of the 2013 season and postseason and the entire 2014 season.
Rodriguez pointed out that he has never tested positive for PEDs, although he did admit in 2009 he used steroids from 2001 through 2003. Fourteen other players were suspended on "non-analytical" grounds in August. Each received 50 games except Brewers slugger Ryan Braun, who sat out 65 games. Braun had previously tested positive but had a suspension overturned on appeal after questioning the handling of his testing sample.
Rodriguez was the only player disciplined at the time who chose to appeal. He faced the harshest penalty because, according to reports, MLB believed he had not only used PEDs but actively attempted to interfere with their investigation.
Major League Baseball launched its investigation when it heard reports that Biogenesis was supplying players with synthetic testosterone and human grown hormone. The issue became public in January 2013 when the weekly Miami New Times published a series of articles that alleged a link between more than 20 players and Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com