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Lost in the briefcase-kicking, table-slamming, expletive-flying exit by Alex Rodriguez at his drug suspension arbitration hearing Wednesday was the history he made by choosing not to personally defend himself. Though often describing himself as fighting for his “life” and fighting for his “legacy,” Rodriguez became the first player not to testify at his arbitration hearing since the Joint Drug Agreement was collectively bargained in 2002.
There have been 12 known arbitration hearings under the JDA in which a player challenged discipline by the commissioner for PED use. In every case before Rodriguez, including the most recent ones involving pitcher Guillermo Mota and outfielder Ryan Braun, the player testified on his own behalf.
Rodriguez chose not to testify under oath at his proceedings, choosing instead the venue of a local sports talk radio show to say he never used PEDs. The hearing regarding Rodriguez’s 211-game suspension for PED use wrapped Thursday.
Rodriguez originally was expected to take part in an “investigatory interview” with MLB last week as part of the proceedings, but he called in sick. Then, two days before he was tentatively scheduled to testify, he stormed out for good Wednesday when arbitrator Fredric Horowitz ruled that testimony by commissioner Bud Selig was unnecessary -- presumably because MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred sufficiently presented the evidence and reasons why Selig suspended Rodriguez for 211 games. Rodriguez used that ruling as an excuse to bolt the hearing and never testify himself.
He told WFAN, “The system is wrong, and whether you’re in federal court or state court or in kangaroo court that we are today, players need protection. The union has already told me that if I go on on Friday and they think I lied, they can give me say another 100 games, so now you're to 311. So now we'll appeal that. In the appeal process, I would say I didn't do it, so now you're up to 411, and this can go on for the next seven or eight years.”
While Rodriguez’s choice not to testify on his own behalf is unprecedented, the excuse he used not to go under oath – that Selig did not testify – has been routine to the process. As MLB said in a statement Wednesday, the commissioner has not testified at any PED-related arbitration hearing since the inception of the JDA.
One of Rodriguez’s attorneys, Jim McCarroll, used the MLB statement as proof that MLB continues to “lie to the fans.” McCarroll pointed out that “the commissioner testified in five of the last seven hearings, and he was harshly criticized in the arbitrator’s decision for not voluntarily appearing in at least one of the two where he did not testify.” Many news outlets ran with McCarroll’s quotes. But the lawyer had his facts confused. The hearings to which McCarroll referred all occurred before the JDA existed.