Baseball arbitrator Frederic Horowitz heard a mountain of evidence and came to the same conclusion that has occurred to baseball fans for years: Alex Rodriguez is a serial PED user who fashioned a career upon deceit. Rodriguez was ruined years ago as far as owning a legitimate reputation in baseball. But the decision Saturday by Horowitz, a man hired by both the owners and players to oversee a grievance procedure born from Marvin Miller's wisdom and that has played out favorably to players over the years, is the official proclamation that Rodriguez is a fraud.
There was no other way to see Horowitz's ruling that Rodriguez must serve a 162-game suspension plus any postseason games this year, costing him the entire 2014 season: It is a massive defeat for Rodriguez and a huge win for Major League Baseball, which achieved the largest drug suspension in the history of a drug-riddled sport and did so without a failed drug test.
Think about the mountain of evidence MLB must have collected on Rodriguez for Horowitz to impose such an unprecedented penalty. Here's a clue: the logbooks of Biogenesis clinic director Tony Bosch -- just those pages published in the Miami New Times 11 months ago -- connected Rodriguez to at least 19 different drugs to be used literally morning, noon and night through multiple delivery systems, including creams, lozenges and injections. And that was before Bosch turned over his Blackberry to MLB, the one with his correspondences with Rodriguez.
Still to be determined is whether Horowitz unofficially brought an end to Rodriguez's baseball career. It does seem more likely than not that Rodriguez has played his last game. The Yankees can write off the $61 million they owe him from 2015-17 as a sunk cost, a price worth the peace of mind of being done with someone who accused them of running him out of baseball under a conspiracy with MLB. Rodriguez's lawyers even asked Yankees president Randy Levine under oath if it were true that he would get an 8 percent bonus if he helped run Rodriguez out of baseball. This is the guy Levine wants back at age 39 after two hip surgeries and essentially two years off the field? Has anyone hurt the Yankees' brand more than Rodriguez?
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Already ruined, once Rodriguez does not have baseball, what will become of him? Baseball, the sport he loves, wants nothing to do with him. He can find no harbor from MLB, the three teams for which he played (the Mariners, Rangers and Yankees, having burned all three) or even his own union, which released a statement extolling confidence in the very grievance procedure Rodriguez attacked as unfair.
As Horowitz decided, this is a man not to be believed.
"Steroids? What do they do?" he asked me in a hotel room in Chicago in 2002 when I questioned him about rampant steroid use in the game, the worst kept secret in baseball in those days. He had no idea, he told me. Looking back on it, now that we know he was juiced to the gills then, his manufactured naivete was chilling.
"I've never felt overmatched on a baseball field," he told Katie Couric of 60 Minutes in 2007, explaining why he never used steroids.
"Not for one inning," blathered Rodriguez to WFAN last month about any suspension he deserved.
"Judge me from this day forward," he cried upon being found by Sports Illustrated in 2009 to have failed a steroid test.
Saturday, finally, was Judgment Day.
Rodriguez went down without testifying on his own behalf, having stormed out of his arbitration hearing and into the sympathetic arms of WFAN back on Nov. 20. Now he will try to find a sympathetic judge to offer an injunction against Horowitz's ruling, but legal experts regard his chances as about as bad as his word, seeing that courts typically do not involve themselves in stepping into a collectively-bargained grievance procedure -- especially one in which Rodriguez's own union applauded by saying in a statement, "We respect the collectively-bargained arbitration process that led to the decision."
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Rodriguez does have the resources -- and now the time -- to continue to be a legal thorn in baseball's side. He had been telling people as far back as last summer that his scorched earth approach could require two to three years of legal fighting. He will not go quietly. Having no integrity does not mean irrelevance. He will continue to make enough noise to be seen and heard, which he craves.
It is not, as too many people have slobbered, a "sad" day. Who knows how long Rodriguez has been juicing? It may be possible that he never played a single day clean in the major leagues, that the entirety of his playing career is a con. You can't wonder about the "shame" of all that talent being disgraced when you can't know for sure if it ever was real. In his only admission ever about PEDs -- and that came only upon the SI revelation -- Rodriguez said he used steroids only in the very narrow window of 2001-03 when he played for the Rangers. He turned to drugs, he wanted you to believe, only after just signing the richest contract in sports history by a multitude of two ($252 million). And then, his story continued, he quit cold turkey after leaving the last-place Rangers for the bright lights of New York and the Yankees.
Horowitz didn't believe him, either, nor did he believe Rodriguez's long roster of lawyers, flacks and crisis managers. Rodriguez tried to pass himself off as something of a martyr, baseball's Curt Flood when it came to drug cases. His camp used loaded words such as "victim" and "witch hunt" and "railroaded." But in the end, when he turned around expecting to find his rank and file behind him in this "good fight," he was left to walk alone, the union effectively saying, "Nice try and good luck from here on out."
The late union leader Michael Weiner, knowing the evidence last summer, had advised Rodriguez to seek a settlement, but MLB never came up with a penalty he found satisfactory. But it was an early indication that this was not about Rodriguez's innocence but about the penalty he deserved.
Horowitz hit him with a heavy hammer. It stands also as a chilling message to drug cheats who are finding ways around drug testing. (Yes, Virginia, they still exist.) The message is that if you are found to be cheating, you can be thrown out for 162 games -- more than triple the amount of games for a first failed test -- if you are found to have been cheating multiple times with multiple substances and obstruct the enforcement of the Joint Drug Agreement. No failed test necessary.
It's easy to imagine Rodriguez beating test after test and with no official "priors" doing the risk/reward calculation and figuring the risk of being caught was only a 50-game ban. If so, it was a bad miscalculation.
Then again, Rodriguez never was nearly as smart as he pretended to be. Consider how he fell -- because of his association with Bosch. Rodriguez always was meticulous about his diet and training. I remember visiting him at his home in Dallas in his Rangers days and how that day and every day he had a chef prepare him exquisite low-fat meals with the freshest ingredients (and how he constantly would let the WFAN simulcast play on his big screen TV in his living room; public feedback for him was the equivalent of what the stock ticker is for a broker). When he hurt his knee in 2009 he went all the way to Germany for cutting-edge treatment by a doctor who claimed he could cure arthritis. And he went to Canada to find another specialist, Anthony Galea, unlicensed in the U.S., who was a known advocate of HGH use.
And yet when it came to his PEDs, the man with the two richest contracts in baseball history turned to a faux doctor operating out of a strip mall in South Florida. And what ultimately undid Rodriguez was the $4,000 investment by one of Bosch's employees that went sour, ultimately causing the employee to turn over documents to the Miami New Times.
That's it: $4,000. Four thousand dollars brought down Rodriguez. Think of $4,000 this way in Rodriguez's world: he was scheduled to earn $17,147 per inning this year.
BALCO, Kirk Radomski, Brian McNamee, Tony Bosch: in each case the source of the supply, once under legal pressure, brought down some of the biggest names in baseball history.
Maybe Rodriguez plays again. Maybe he never does. But Saturday was the day somebody officially called him out. The day came four years to the day that Mark McGwire finally admitted he was a steroid user. That admission came nine years after McGwire played his last game.