The Persecution of Alex Rodriguez

Baseball broke all the rules and harassed its employees simply because they had the gall to outwit their boss. So that’s why they call it America’s pastime

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After nearly two months’ lull—presumably baseball had to break for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Orthodox Christmas—the persecution of Alex Rodriguez resumed on Saturday. Following weeks of hearings, an arbitrator announced that he would shave only 49 games off the Yankee third baseman’s performance-enhancing-drug suspension, leaving him with a 162-game—or full-season—ban from competition. The ruling strips Rodriguez of a season’s worth of paychecks ($25 million) and at-bats, ensuring that he will remain more than 100 home runs behind Barry Bonds’s all-time record when he turns the ancient-in-baseball age of 39.

Things turned sourer still on Sunday evening, when 60 Minutes aired its supposed investigation into the Rodriguez case, asking all the wrong questions and carrying the league’s water.

Correspondent Scott Pelley landed the first extended on-camera sit-down with Rodriguez’s alleged drug supplier, Anthony Bosch. He also snagged Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, Rob Manfred (the league’s chief operating officer and Selig’s presumed successor) and Joe Tacopina, Rodriguez’s lawyer — every one of the case’s public principals, excepting Rodriguez himself.

Bosch detailed to Pelley how he came to meet Rodriguez: The ball player had asked Bosch to do for him what he once had done for Manny Ramirez. Rodriguez wanted to be the first member of the 800-home-run club. Bosch says he gave Rodriguez prohibited injections, creams and lozenges. Onscreen graphics displayed a series of BlackBerry messages between Bosch and what the league told Pelley was a BlackBerry owned by Rodriguez. The logs spill over with the euphemisms of buyers and dealers; the pair writes of “gummies” and “cojetes” but never “testosterone” or “IGF-1.”

Then the story’s focus shifted from Bosch to baseball’s investigation. Pelley asked Selig why he imposed such a punishment on Rodriguez and went to such great lengths to uncover evidence of his wrongdoing; Selig replied that Rodriguez’s actions were “beyond comprehension.” Pelley had Manfred explain how the league built its case, how it came by its evidence (beaming, he says MLB bought it from a man known only as “Bobby,” for $125,000) and how it authenticated the documents (by suing Bosch, then cutting a deal with him). And then Manfred intimated to Pelley that Rodriguez had, essentially, put out a hit on Bosch. Tacopina was given time to issue a handful of pro forma denials, Manfred had the last word — “The fact of the matter is the evidence in the case contains no denial from Mr. Rodriguez” — and then the broadcaster closed things out. “Part of [Bud Selig's] legacy is the establishment of the toughest anti-doping rules in all of American pro sports,” he said, seemingly unaware of any irony, as 60 Minutes cut to commercial.

“Rules!” Huh. It’s funny that Pelley associates Selig’s recent anti-doping crusade with rules. The Joint Drug Agreement—the rules—establish a protocol by which players will be tested for performance-enhancing drugs. If a player fails a test, then he will be punished. Unlike four other Bosch clients, Rodriguez never failed a test.

But wait, MLB will say. The league’s drug policy makes room for “just cause” suspensions, allowing the Commissioner to punish any player whom he knows to have taken performance-enhancing substances. How, though, does MLB know for sure that Rodriguez took any performance-enhancing substances? How can the league trust “Bobby’s” evidence? Bobby’s a convicted criminal, and the documents were stolen. And the man tasked with authenticating them — Anthony Bosch — had not only pretended to be a doctor and dealt controlled substances, but had in exchange for his cooperation taken money from MLB for his security and attorneys’ fees, and the league’s word that it would put in a good word with federal prosecutors, should they ever come calling.

Here’s Manfred, to Pelley: “I think that Mr. Bosch’s credibility on these issues, whatever his motivations, whatever we did for him, was established by his willingness to come in, raise his right hand, testify, and by the fact that he had all sorts of evidence that supported everything that he said. … The credibility of any witness is determined by a trial of fact, by looking the individual in the eye, listening to the story he tells and then lining it up with the other evidence.”

Yep, baseball looked Tony Bosch in the eye, agreed to drop its lawsuit against him, agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of his expenses, and agreed to use its numerous contacts in law enforcement—all kinds of former FBI agents were hired just for the investigation—to help him out in the future. Then the league could be certain he was telling the truth!

Funny that when Rodriguez wired Bosch’s attorney $50,000, that was called “a bribe,” worthy of Selig’s scorn plus additional discipline beyond the usual penalty for a first offense. Funny that when Rodriguez bought some Biogenesis documents, that was obstruction of an investigation. When the league went to purchase the documents, it was the investigation. Funny, too, that the league’s drug agreement guarantees confidentiality, which in this case was not so much breached as it was entirely disregarded. (That promise is evidently contingent on whether the sports running baseball want to take out their toy guns and badges and feel especially macho that week.)

One would be foolish to think that what’s really at stake here is Rodriguez’s drug use. (Pelley and his producers seemed to—he even asked Bosch a question about “the integrity of the game”—and that’s part of the reason 60 Minutes’s report failed.) Rodriguez may very well have availed himself of Bosch’s services, and the services in question may very well have made him a slightly better player.

But baseball paid convicted criminals in cash and harassed its employees simply because they had the gall to outwit their boss. Baseball erected its own set of investigative powers that come nowhere near passing a smell test. And at no point has the league mustered much of a justification for its transgressions. We are left to think that the only reason MLB has chased the cheaters so exhaustively is that Selig, on the cusp of retirement, is as shameless as he was during the peak of the steroid era, when he looked the other way at swelling sluggers. Now, his optics shop believes that fans want a drug-free game, so he’s reversed his stance.

To think that the most important part of Alex Rodriguez’s case is whether or not Alex Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs is to necessarily endorse MLB’s methods. That strangely Machiavellian naiveté echoes throughout recent American political activity, justifying stop-and-frisk, the broader drug war and all kinds of warrantless wiretapping and surveillance. Come on, just cooperate with us, what do you have to hide? Baseball is still the national pastime.

9 comments
LGseacoast
LGseacoast

The MLB should list in the program, who is on performance enhancing drugs. They do it in horse racing... maybe it would work for humans.

Really, what's the difference between drugs to mask pain (ie: Curt Shilling's bloody sock) and drugs to amplifly body mass? They both aim for the same thing, which is to win at all costs.

SMS39
SMS39

From Nick Cafardo column in 1/19/14 Boston Globe. Dickey ignores the most damning evidence against A-Rod. He is NOT a victim of persecution.

Stanford Law professor Gould reasons that Horowitz [the arbitrator] made his determination because there was no precedent for a punishment that long. Gould argues that nobody had ever done what A-Rod did, either, just as nobody had ever done what Kermit Washington did when the former NBA player punched out Rudy Tomjanovich on the court in 1977.

Gould thinks A-Rod is sunk for two reasons. One, he never countered any of the charges made by Tony Bosch, Major League Baseball’s top witness and the man who ran the Miami Biogenesis clinic where Bosch alleges he injected Rodriguez with a variety of performance-enhancing drugs.

Rodriguez, who admitted to taking PEDs while with the Texas Rangers, denies taking any from Bosch.

“The ruling is a very careful professional job with detailed fact-finding and thorough consideration of applicable arbitral precedent,” Gould said. “First, the arbitrator laid out the testimony-supporting evidence in the form of not simply uncontradicted testimony of Bosch, but also notebooks, BlackBerry messages, not only noting drugs delivered, but also A-Rod’s instructions to erase messages telling Bosch, for instance, to use the service elevator to avoid watching eyes.

“When the authenticity of the messages were disputed, the arbitrator offered A-Rod a new independent authenticator. He declined. There’s no testimony from A-Rod or anyone disputing the evidence against him . . . clear and convincing proof against him."

Rodriguez and his legal team also insist the penalty should have been in keeping with a first-time offense. Not so, according to Gould.

“A-Rod argued that the penalty should be that set forth in the drug testing provision [50 games]. As I pointed out in Chapter 7 of ‘Bargaining with Baseball,’ drug offenses have long been handled under the just cause clause in the CBA — in the LaMarr Hoyt, Otis Nixon, Willie Wilson, and Steve Howe cases [the arbitrator invoked that clause] and others long before testing.

“The Anabolic Steroid Act of 1990 was incorporated in the CBA in the ’90s. The drug testing clause began in 2003 setting forth its own sanctions, never affecting just cause as a basis for discipline. As the arbitrator held, each drug test failure constitutes a distinct violation — the failure of the test. Under just cause, A-Rod’s numerous violations, as well his attempt to conceal and cover up, were properly part of just cause.”

GloriaH
GloriaH

Thank you for this article. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the ballplayer, what MLB did was FAR worse -- and that's the point.  

mleew56
mleew56

I could possibly be sympathetic toward A-Rod, but he would have to start telling the truth.  So far, he seems to be following Roger Clemens' roadmap, not too inspiring.

JCofNC
JCofNC

Time has reached a conclusion which is hard to believe. To muster any sympathy for an egotistical $25M a year doping baseball player is comical. The revelation of the details has added to Bosch's credibility.

Rach
Rach

Ugh. This is journalism? Time has really gone downhill.

JeffScott2
JeffScott2

Bosch' s testimony is perfectly credible.  It's made out to be a he said she said but that's not what this is.  Bosch testified to a level of detail that is impossible to fabricate (lie about).  Can you comprehend how impossibly difficult it would be to tell a lie that fits 500 text messages perfectly with no inconsistency?  Bosch' s explanations are never at odds with the paper trail, which is vast and intricate.  You think Bosch was lying and that he and Arod were really chatting about candy?  Bosch had other clients who followed PED regimens, not just Arod, so it's not like that can't be corroborated.  You sound as if you think every witness who testifies has to be a boy scout or what they say doesn't count.  In criminal litigation, do you have any idea how many key witnesses in criminal trials have some kind of criminal record?  Spoiler alert:  A LOT.  And the confidentiality gripe is SPURIOUS because  MLB didn't release the report detailing the decision, Arod s lawyers did that themselves while bringing a lawsuit!!  MLB s case is rock solid.  Our government uses undercover detectives and confidential informants like Bosch to aid their investigations all the time, and you need to do some seedy things to get evidence because when someone powerful needs to get rid of something incriminating they do everything they can to bury it.  To make any case you have to do some digging, and when you have no choice but to dig in dirt your hands are going to get dirty.  They don't come off looking very pretty here, some of the tactics were messy looking, but ultimately completely necessary.  They deserve a slight eyebrow raise but in the end I support their investigation.  Arod wouldn't make a deal even though he knew he had used ped' s--11 or 12 other players did.  Arod wouldn't, and all MLB did was follow through on their threat to hammer him if he lied.  If he was truly innocent and being harassed over nothing the investigation would have revealed that.  Since he wasn't, he deserves every inning of this.  He should have looked himself in the mirror and made a deal when he had the chance.




JTMac32
JTMac32

Poor A-Rod. MLB was out to get him. He's the victim here. Please. Give me a break. I won't say he got what he deserved, but every single thing that happened to A-Rod was the result of decisions he himself made. And at the end of the day, he's still made more money than god and is owed $61 million more. Poor A-Rod? Nothing could be further from the truth. 


mahadragon
mahadragon

@JTMac32 Agree. A-Rod put himself in this position. It's a well known fact he's been using steroids, he even admitted using them. I don't see think he's being persecuted. A cheater is a cheater and they don't belong in baseball.

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