By Ernie Palladino
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Alex Rodriguez has threatened to show up at spring training.
Take that one step further, just for the sake of accuracy. He had better show up at spring training. It is there that the Yankees’ third baseman will fine-tune himself as he has every year of his career, this time for a 2014 season of which, health willing, he will not miss a single game.
Arbitrator Fred Horowitz, facing Major League Baseball’s mountain of evidence condemning Rodriguez, still found a way to reduce Rodriguez’s original suspension of 211 games to 162 plus the playoffs.
As always, there are two ways to interpret that. One way is that Horowitz supported baseball’s case. Yet, if the evidence was so strong, why didn’t he simply uphold the original terms of the ban?
The second way is that Horowitz punted. He knew what everybody else already knows — that Rodriguez is a cheater of the highest magnitude. He bought (allegedly), he used (allegedly), he coerced witnesses (yeah, allegedly). But lowering the penalty to one full season with lost wages, which for Rodriguez means a paltry $25 million, means Horowitz took what he felt he could get.
My opinion? The arbitrator and baseball are going to end up with nothing. Alex Rodriguez is going to get away with baseball’s equivalent of murder.
If this case gets to federal court, the burden of proof becomes more stringent, and much of the evidence baseball has compiled will come into question. This is no slam-dunk for Rodriguez, of course, but it will get awfully interesting when the third baseman’s camp slaps commissioner Bud Selig with a subpoena to testify. That’s a power Horowitz didn’t have, and the commissioner didn’t exactly jump at the voluntary chance to answer questions about his informational collection methods or the accuracy of the documents.
He’ll have to do that now, and he had best hope he has his story in order.
Anthony Bosch, the head man at the now-shuttered Biogenesis, will have to take the stand, as will trainers, team executives, and just about anyone the A-Rod group cares to throw in front of judge and jury.
Going against Rodriguez is the fact that courts are loathe to overturn decisions made in binding arbitration. Rodriguez, though, has spent truckloads of dollars, and will spent much, much more in the coming months, to secure the best, most wily lawyers around. He probably won’t go after Horowitz’s reputation as a fair an honest man, even though he publicly called the arbitration process unfair and dishonest. But he will go after the nature of the evidence, and the character of the people who supplied and collected said evidence.
A lot of people are going to come out of this dirty — as if there were any good guys involved to begin with — and Rodriguez has at least a shot to exit this whole mess intact.
That means full season, full salary.
He could be masterminding the greatest escape job since OJ Simpson.
The hope here is that none of this happens. Rodriguez cheated once in the early 2000s. After that? To think otherwise is simply foolish.
But whether the evidence stands up to the rigorous standards of the judicial system, that’s another story. “If the glove don’t fit…,” well, you know the rest.
Of all the holes the Yankees have filled and still need to address, third base is not one of them. Assuming his health cooperates, Rodriguez will be in pinstripes again.
This year. Not next.
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