Alex Rodriguez is expected to play for the New York Yankees on Monday despite Major League Baseball's plans to suspend him for more than 200 games earlier in the day, the first joust in what could be a long, drawn-out battle over the beleaguered star's future in the sport, sources told Yahoo! Sports on Sunday night.
Rodriguez plans on appealing MLB's suspension through the 2014 season for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, allowing him to play immediately. After long discussions to suspend Rodriguezusing the collective-bargaining agreement, which would have kept the 38-year-old off the field immediately, MLB late Sunday was leaning toward using the joint drug agreement, which permits a stay of the suspension pending appeal. While commissioner Bud Selig would prefer to keep Rodriguez off the field, his use of the CBA as the primary reason could be seen as running afoul of the intentions of the JDA and thus is unlikely to be used.
Rodriguez flew to Chicago on Sunday prepared to play his first game since offseason hip surgery, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he expected him in the lineup against the White Sox on Monday night despite the expected 214-game penalty, which would be the longest non-lifetime suspension in baseball history.
MLB will announce Rodriguez's suspension, along with about a dozen others, on Monday afternoon. The MLB Players Association has yet to send plea agreements from most of the players expected to take penalties of 50 games for receiving performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, the south Florida wellness clinic that allegedly served as a doping nerve center for Rodriguez, suspendedMilwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun and other major league starters, including Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta and San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera.
Despite evidence from Biogenesis owner Anthony Bosch that shows Rodriguez used PEDs consistently over a three-year period, the highest-paid player in American sports refused to strike a deal with MLB, choosing instead to get his suspension overturned or reduced via arbitration. During negotiations, Rodriguez asked to be treated as a first-time offender, which under baseball's drug agreement equals a 50-game suspension. Because MLB gathered evidence of Rodriguez tampering with its investigation into Biogenesis, the league pursued far more severe discipline, arguing that because Rodriguez's violations were non-analytical positives – none of his urine tests triggered positives – they were not subject to typical discipline.
It sets up a fascinating dynamic in which the league could again face an arbitration case against lawyer David Cornwell, who is representing Rodriguez. He was the lead attorney for Braun's case after a test found synthetic testosterone in his urine. The arbitrator, Shyam Das, threw out a 50-game suspension because of chain-of-custody issues in the handling of Braun's sample.
The negotiations between Rodriguez's camp and the league broke down Saturday when MLB refused to meet with Rodriguez a day after he referred obliquely to "people [who] are finding creative ways to cancel [my] contract." According to sources, Rodriguez's camp contacted the players' union Saturday morning in the hopes it could arrange a meeting with MLB officials. Rodriguez's people, according to the same sources, also sought to meet directly with Yankees officials, possibly in an effort to strike a financial settlement.
MLB apparently told the union the time for negotiation had passed and that the league intended to announce discipline for a dozen players on Monday, including some whose names have not been made public.
If the suspension is upheld through arbitration – sources expect the case to be heard sometime within the next month – Rodriguez would lose more than $30 million of the $95 million due him through 2017. Were new arbitrator Frederic Horowitz to uphold the full 214-game penalty, sources said, Rodriguez's penalty would extend into 2015 and lead up to his 40th birthday.
Rodriguez had met previously with MLB investigators and, according to a source, refused to answer their questions. On Friday night in Trenton, where he is rehabbing a quadriceps injury, Rodriguez hit a long home run and then implied he would not give up the fight against MLB or the Yankees. He appeared most concerned with saving as much of his contract as he could, against what he seems to believe is an effort by the Yankees to be rid of him and the largest deal in team sports history.
"I think that's the pink elephant in the room," Rodriguez told reporters in Trenton. "I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs. That's a must. I think all the players feel that way. But when all the stuff is going on in the background and people are finding creative ways to cancel your contract, I think that's concerning for me. It's concerning for present [players] and it should be concerning for future players as well. There is a process. … I'm going to keep fighting."