An arbitrator ruled over the weekend that Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) should be suspended for 162 games (a full season) for his involvement with Biogenesis, the South Florida anti-aging clinic that according to Major League Baseball supplied Rodriguez with banned drugs. While this was less than the 211 game that was meted out to Rodriguez last summer, the arbitrator agreed with all of Major League Baseball’s findings against Rodriguez. Rodriguez and his legal team have vowed to continue the fight and seek an injunction to prevent the suspension as Rodriguez’s federal lawsuit against Major League Baseball and Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig continues its way through the legal system (his team also added the Major League Baseball Players Union to the federal suit) and stated that A-Rod will attend spring training. In the lawsuit, Rodriguez claims that Selig and Major League Baseball pursued him with “vigilante justice” as part of a “witch hunt” designed to smear his character. The lawsuit also lists allegations —that Major League Baseball investigators engaged in unethical and even criminal behavior during the year-long investigation into Rodriguez and Biogenesis; and that Major League paid Bosch for his testimony against Rodriguez. Finally in this weekend of A-Rod drama, Major League Baseball Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred and Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch appeared on 60 Minutes this weekend to make their case against Rodriguez public. The question is can anyone win the public relations war or will this harm everyone?
- Alex Rodriguez was in the twilight of his career even before this drama, yet despite this had the PR persona of still being one of the sport’s elite players. This PR persona is now totally destroyed with the suspension. His career with the Yankees is probably over. Attending spring training if the courts do not issue an injunction will further tarnish his image (and also make a mockery of the whole sport). Sponsors will look at this suspension as final evidence that he is tainted goods and will run from him. His record will now always have an asterisk next to his name and he will never be considered among the greats of the game such Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron.
Some team no matter what will probably want him in 2015 if he wants to play and fans will go to see him for a while because of the tabloid aspect. He has denied repeatedly that he took any banned drugs while with the Yankees, so having crossed the Rubicon so dramatically, he can’t now admit he did and apologize. Such an admission would further damage his already stained reputation. Yes, Americans love second acts but at this point in his career he is headed toward a guest spot on Celebrity Apprentice rather than the World Series. His persona of sports stardom is over unless….he wins the lawsuit.
This means battling it out with a series of interviews, press conferences, and speeches arguing his side to influence public opinion while the lawyers battle. Winning the lawsuit would be total vindication for Rodriguez. Such a victory would damage baseball perhaps irreparably. Already some fans while agreeing with the suspension don’t like how Major League Baseball has handled aspects of the situation.
- Major League Baseball is under attack with Rodriguez and his lawsuit. Many fans even those who don’t like Rodriguez didn’t like the 60 Minutes interview and felt it was overkill. Major League Baseball doesn’t need further interviews like that especially with Bosch. Major League Baseball needs to argue more persuasively that this suspension along with those of other players last season shows the strides that it has made and continue to make against illegal drug use in its sport and that Rodriguez’s suspension proves that nobody is above the rules no matter how famous a player. Finally they need to demonstrate how Rodriguez is attempting to harm the sport that gave him fame and success by his past conduct and attempting to make a mockery of the system to avoid his just suspension. Should any of Rodriguez’s claims in the lawsuit have merit, Major League Baseball needs to address them and clean house. At this juncture with Rodriguez in a position to inflict injury to the sport, Major League Baseball needs to be as clean as a hound’s tooth in an echo Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. So…
If the accusations have any ounce of merit action:
- Selig needs to resign once. He has already announced that he is stepping aside after the 2014 season. Far better for baseball that he resign at once rather than allow this lawsuit cloud everything else including the 2014 season.
- Bring in a special investigator to investigate all of the allegations and fire anyone who is found to have acted unethically or criminally.
- If any payments were made to Anthony Bosch admit it and explain why.
- Replace Selig with a high profile personality who has creditability with the public, even if not a great understanding of baseball. Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney, Bill Bradley, or Rudy Giuliani all come to mind. Remember the first Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis wasn’t brought on board for his knowledge of the game but rather his reputation and judicial mindset.
- Reaffirm the anti-drug policy.
At this point, the Alex Rodriguez saga has the potential to harm and possibly destroy not just his public persona but also that of Major League Baseball as it plays out. At the best it makes a mockery of the sport and the system, at the worst it puts Major League Baseball back to an image that it had with the infamous Black Sox Scandal if not handled well.