NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Alex Rodriguez has been banned for 211 regular-season games by Major League Baseball for his part in the sport’s latest performance-enhancing drugs scandal.
The New York Yankees star vowed to appeal the suspension, which takes effect Thursday. He’ll be allowed to play during the grievance process and made his season debut Monday night in Chicago.
The 14-time All-Star started at third base and batted cleanup, going 1-for-4 in the Yankees’ 8-1 loss.
“I think it’s clear the expectations from where I put him in the lineup,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said at a news conference earlier Monday night. “I expect him to drive in runs and be productive for us.”
Rodriguez’s suspension will run through 2014.
“I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process,” A-Rod said in a statement Monday. “I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by my side through all this.
“I’m fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don’t defend myself, no one else will.”
The third baseman was linked during the offseason to Biogenesis, the Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing PEDs. A-Rod denied all ties to the clinic and its operator, Anthony Bosch, after the Miami New Times published its bombshell report in January.
“The last seven months have been a nightmare — probably the worst time of my life, for sure,” Rodriguez said in a news conference on Monday night. “I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play major league baseball again.”
WATCH: Remarks From A-Rod
Bosch agreed to cooperate with MLB’s probe in June.
“Rodriguez’s discipline under the joint drug prevention and treatment program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years,” MLB said in a statement. “Rodriguez’s discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”
“(A-Rod) pretty much ruined the sport,” one fan told 1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg. “He made the Yankees look bad, he made himself look bad, he made his fans look bad, it’s bad for publicity, it’s bad for himself and he really let a lot of people down. No. He actually shouldn’t be playing at all, for that matter.”
“This might be the largest booing of any human being ever in baseball history when he walks out into Cellular Park tonight with a uniform on,” Suzyn Waldman of the WCBS 880 Yankees radio team said.
MLB delivered its verdict around 3 p.m. Monday.
Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets were among 12 players who accepted 50-game suspensions. Mets minor leaguer Cesar Puello and Yankees farmhand Fernando Martinez were also on the list.
Others included Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta; Philadelphia pitcher Antonio Bastardo; Seattle catcher Jesus Montero; Houston pitcher Sergio Escalona; San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera and pitcher Fautino De Los Santos; and free agent Jordan Norberto.
“Despite the challenges this situation has created during a great season on the field, we pursued this matter because it was not only the right thing to do, but the only thing to do,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. “For weeks, I have noted the many players throughout the game who have strongly voiced their support on this issue, and I thank them for it.”
A-Rod, facing a more severe penalty, was the lone holdout. Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun previously accepted a 65-game ban.
“Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon and Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal, all of whom already have served 50-game suspensions as a result of their violations of the joint drug prevention and treatment program stemming from their connections to Biogenesis, will not receive additional discipline,” the league said, adding: “Major League Baseball’s investigation found no violations of the joint drug prevention and treatment program by either Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez or Baltimore Orioles infielder Danny Valencia.”
The players’ union “tried to strike a deal” Monday on behalf of A-Rod but was “rebuffed,” ESPN’s T.J. Quinn reported via Twitter.
“For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension,” MLBPA chief Michael Weiner said in a statement. “We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.”
He added: “I want to close by stating our profound disappointment in the way individuals granted access to private and privileged information felt compelled to share that information publicly. The manner in which confidential information was so freely exchanged is not only a threat to the success and credibility of our jointly administered program; it calls into question the level of trust required to administer such a program.”
Weiner added that the appeal process won’t be finished before the season ends.
Rodriguez’s attorney, David Cornwell, called the league’s action “regrettable” and said “all legal remedies” would be pursued.
In a statement, the Yankees voiced their support for MLB’s drug program and appeals process. The team also addressed “certain reckless and false allegations” relating to A-Rod.
“The New York Yankees in no way instituted and/or assisted MLB in the direction of this investigation; or used the investigation as an attempt to avoid its responsibilities under a player contract; or did its medical staff fail to provide the appropriate standard of care to Alex Rodriguez,” the Yankees said. “Separately, we are disappointed with the news today of the suspension of Francisco Cervelli. It’s clear that he used bad judgment.”
One fan on Park Avenue near Selig’s office told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane that this is like “The Real Housewives Of New Jersey,” a drama that’s always on and never ending.
Adding to the drama: many have wondered whether a lengthy absence would end Rodriguez’s career.
The 38-year-old is coming off a second hip surgery and will have four years and $86 million remaining on his contract after the 2013 season. The ban will reportedly cost him about $35 million — less if overturned in arbitration.
“If he loses that appeal, then the 211 games goes on to the next year. And if he has to miss all of next year and then it goes into 2015, I would imagine that that effectively ends his career. So he’s really got to think about this,” Suzyn Waldman said.
Longtime New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey was unsympathetic to A-Rod for the punishment doled out.
“He got to this point by systematically abusing all the rules and the history of it that other people had gotten caught and he kept going,” Vecsey told WCBS 880 on Monday afternoon. “He was at Biogenesis long after a lot of great players had been disgraced. He just didn’t know enough to be even self-protective.”
Vecsey added he doesn’t see Rodriguez getting built back up to hero status in the minds of the American public.
“I don’t see him getting wise in his 40s if he didn’t get wide in his 30s,” Vecsey said.
Rodriguez hinted at entities conspiring to keep him off the field after a rehab game Friday in Trenton.
“There’s a lot of layers to this,” A-Rod said. “As far as all the legal stuff, it’s confusing. I will say this: there is more than one party that benefits from me never stepping back on the field. That’s not my teammates. That’s not the Yankees fans.”
He added: “When all this stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract and stuff like that, I think that’s concerning for me.”
Rodriguez admitted in 2009 to using PEDs while playing for the Texas Rangers (2001-03).
“We’re going to be happy to see him back in the lineup, especially the way we’ve been playing,” Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said Sunday. “He can come up and help us win some games.”
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