A-Rod Watch: Rodriguez circus blows into the Windy City
SI.com baseball writer Joe Lemire was in Chicago, where Alex Rodriguez made his season debut Monday night for the Yankees. After receiving a 211-game suspension earlier in the day, A-Rod went 1-for-4 in an 8-1 loss to the White Sox. Look back at Lemire's live A-Rod updates from the Windy City and the Yanks' star's first game back.
10:01 p.m. CDT
With a growing serenade from the crowd — that sounded a lot like "Ster-oids" — Alex Rodriguez struck out looking in his fourth and likely final at bat, taking a 3-2 curveball down the middle from Chicago's Matt Lindstrom.
9:20 p.m. CDT
In his third plate appearance up, Alex Rodriguez again flew out to the deep outfield, this time pulling a ball to the fringe of warning track in left, where it was easily caught. If the White Sox’ 7-0 lead gets further out of hand, one would have to consider that there’s a chance manager Joe Girardi pulls Rodriguez early to keep him fresh for tomorrow.
8:33 p.m. CDT
After a long wait during which the White Sox piled on the runs for a 7-0 lead, Alex Rodriguez finally batted a second time and flew out to deep right-center. His throws from the field have been adventuresome, too -- in the second inning, his throw was low and away but Vernon Wells -- making his first professional appearance as a first baseman -- scooped the ball on a long stretch to spare Rodriguez the error.
7:35 p.m. CDT
Loud boos greet Alex Rodriguez’s first plate appearance. After taking two balls, Rodriguez blooped a single into leftfield, just out of the reach of a diving Casper Wells. It wasn't pretty, but it was hit No. 2,902 of his career and he's now 1-for-1 since being saddled with a 211-game suspension. But, for now, A-Rod's batting 1.000.
6:50 p.m. CDT
To a chorus of mild boos and a very light smattering of applause, Alex Rodriguez runs onto the field and does some quick loosening up in centerfield before walking to the foul line and continuing his process of getting ready for the game with a series of jogs and stretches. He waved and pointed at one fan or group of fans in rightfield but for the most part seems only occupied with getting ready for the game, his first big league game since Oct. 18, 2012, when he went 0-for-2 in ALCS Game 4 to finish the postseason 3-for-25.
6:17 p.m. CDT
Alex Rodriguez is signing autographs for fans near home plate. At least a dozen cameras are chronicling every pen stroke.
5:33 p.m. CDT
Alex Rodriguez's press conference has concluded.
5:20 p.m. CDT
Alex Rodriguez is facing the media, and oddly, starts by saying, "Thank you for being here today." The rest of his opening comments included:
"I just want to express to you guys and the fans of baseball that the last seven months has been a nightmare. It's been probably the worst time of my life, for sure. Obviously for the circumstances that are at hand and also dealing with a very tough surgery and a rehab program and being 38. I am thrilled and humbled to have the opportunity to put on this uniform again and to play major league baseball again. I feel like, uh, like I was 18 years old back in Fenway Park back in 1994 when I went in to face the Red Sox for the very first time and it's been 20 years. Just very excited to have the opportunity to go out there and play baseball and help my team win and prove to myself, my teammates, the fans of New York, the fans of baseball that I still have a shot to play the game at a high level. I'm going to give them my best.
"I'm not going to get into any of that today."
"Obviously disappointed with the news today, no question about it. What we've always fought for is the process and we have that. At some point we'll sit in front of an [arbitrator] and we'll give our case. That's as much as I feel comfortable going into that.
On whether he used PEDs: "We'll have a forum to discuss all of that and we'll talk about it then."
On whether he feels this is a "witch hunt": "I don't know what the motivation is for any of this but I'm going to respect the process. We're going to follow the [Basic Agreement] and state our case.
On MLB's evidence: "We've seen everything. There will be a time and a place for [discussing] all of that. When the time is right, we'll all speak more freely."
"I haven't got any indication of the timing of everything. I'm so focused on tonight. The last time I was on the field it wasn't pretty for me. It was against Detroit in the playoffs and against Baltimore and it was horrific.
"It's been the toughest fight of my life. By any means am I out of the woods? This is Phase 2 just starting. It's not going to get easier, it's probably going to get harder.
On whether he thinks the Yankees want him back: "If I'm productive I think they want me back. I feel tremendous support from my clubhouse I feel great support from my manager."
"I'm a human being. I'm fighting for my life. I have to defend myself. If I don't defend myself no one else will. . . .I'm not saying that anyone's making anything up. This is America, you have an opportunity to defend yourself."
5:02 p.m. CDT
Joe Girardi is having his pregame press conference now. Among his quotes about A-Rod: "We expect him to be healthy, and I'm going to play him. I think the expectations are clear based on where I put him in the lineup."
"I don't think there's any room for PEDs in baseball. I think the records should be accomplished the right way and I think it's through hard work. I believe everyone gets shortchanged through shortcuts. I believe the only way to do it is through hard work....I think guys were happy to see him. He's a teammate of ours, he's a friend of ours....Obviously you want to hope the resolution is that he's clean.
"I can't tell you what's going to happen in the appeals process. I don't think anyone wants to lose a player whose a big part of your team because that leaves a hole that's not always easy to fill.
"He's a player as long as he's in our clubhouse. I don't really have a timetable because probably like you I've never really been through an appeal process and I don't know how quick or slow this is going to move.
"I'm not on this world to judge people. I don't believe that, that's not my job. I know there's a lot of speculation what he did and what he didn't do. Until I know 100 percent, it's hard for me to really comment on it.
"People have asked me if it's a good day or a bad day for baseball, and I think it's both."
4:00 p.m. CDT
The Yankees' lineup was just posted: Alex Rodriguez is batting fourth and playing third base.
3:41 p.m. CDT
The media is in the clubhouse but, not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is not at his locker. Also, there is no lineup posted yet.
3:37 p.m. CDT
Yankees PR announced that Alex Rodriguez will address the media at 5:15 (following manager Joe Girardi at 5:00). Rodriguez did release a statement earlier in advance of his press conference that said: "I am disappointed with the penalty and intend to appeal and fight this through the process. I am eager to get back on the field and be with my teammates in Chicago tonight. I want to thank my family, friends and fans who have stood by my side through all this."
3:16 p.m. CDT
Alex Rodriguez, wearing a blue blazer over a white shirt, arrived at the visiting clubhouse riding shotgun on a golf cart. He greeted a couple Yankees beat writers as he drove past them but otherwise made no comment, as he got off right at the door and strode in. Media will be allowed to enter at 3:40.
2:54 p.m. CDT
MLB Players Association executive director Michael Weiner released his own statement about 20 minutes ago. Regarding Alex Rodriguez, he said: "For the player appealing, Alex Rodriguez, we agree with his decision to fight his suspension. We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement. Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously.
The Union’s members have made it clear that they want a clean game. They support efforts to discipline players, and harshly, to help ensure an even playing field for all. The players support the Union’s efforts to uphold the JDA while at the same time guaranteeing that players receive the due process rights and confidentiality protections granted under the agreement."
2:43 p.m. CDT
The Yankees' clubhouse doesn't open for nearly an hour, yet more than two dozen media members are already gathered in the hallway outside its door.
2:20 p.m. CDT
One interesting detail to pass along: a man wearing an Alex Rodriguez’s No. 13 Yankees jersey (the home, pinstriped white version) was sitting outside U.S. Cellular Field’s Gate 4 as I entered. A-Rod himself is still expected to be in the lineup in his road grays in just a few hours.
2:03 p.m. CDT
Just after I arrived at the ballpark -- whose field is mostly barren of players but whose infield warning track is littered with 10 TV camera tripods -- the news from the league landed in my inbox.
According to a release from Major League Baseball: “Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig announced today that third baseman Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has been suspended without pay for the remainder of the 2013 Championship Season and Postseason and the entire 2014 Championship Season for violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and the Basic Agreement.
“Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation. The suspension, which will become effective on Thursday, August 8th, will cover 211 Championship Season games and any 2013 Postseason games in which Rodriguez otherwise would have been eligible to play.
“Under the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, Rodriguez’s suspension will be stayed until the completion of his appeal if Rodriguez files a grievance challenging his discipline."
1:11 p.m. CDT
Official word of the Major League Baseball’s suspensions is expected to be announced at 3 p.m. EDT/2 p.m. CDT, according to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn.
That’s about five hours before tonight's 7:10 p.m. CDT first pitch between the Yankees and White Sox, which is around the time many major leaguers arrive at a ballpark before a game, making it possible Alex Rodriguez will already be at U.S. Cellular Field by then or at least in transit. All reports are that Rodriguez will be suspended and that he is expected to appeal, allowing him to play.
Visiting clubhouses open to the media three and a half hours before first pitch, so the Yankees’ clubhouse should open at 3:40 p.m. Central time. Lineups are usually posted around that time as well, and Girardi indicated to reporters yesterday that he intends to put Rodriguez at third base.
And, incidentally, the sun is now out, making for a beautiful day at the ballyard.
11:47 a.m. CDT
CHICAGO -- The wait has felt endless already, making each passing minute of anticipation for Major League’s Baseball’s historic suspension announcement feel all that much longer. It’s been more than six months since the Miami New Times first wrote about the Biogenesis clinic’s link to sports, and a league investigation is reportedly about to culminate in an apparently imminent arrival of a press release in email inboxes banning 13 players -- most notably, the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez.
The two major events of Rodriguez’s offseason were hip surgery on Jan. 16 (201 days ago) and his alleged link to Biogenesis reported on Jan. 29 (188 days ago). Most of his 2013 season has been devoted to the laborious work of rehabilitation that, after a recent setback of a quad strain, is finally completed. After playing a pair of Double A games over the weekened -- homering on Friday and walking four times on Saturday -- Rodriguez is ready to rejoin the Yankees as they play the White Sox in Chicago.
His long road back to a big league diamond was nearly sidetracked by Commissioner Bud Selig, who reportedly entertained the idea of banning Rodriguez under the “best interests of baseball” clause of the collective bargaining agreement, which would have kept the 38-year-old player on the sideline even as he appealed. Reports on Sunday, however, indicate that won’t actually be the case when the looming suspension is handed down, and Rodriguez’s expected appeal will allow him to play until the arbitrator hears his case. With a promise from manager Joe Girardi to pencil him into the lineup tonight, Rodriguez faces one more obstacle out of his hands: the weather. Light rain is now falling in downtown Chicago, with scattered thunderstorms in the forecast this evening. There’s a less-than-50 percent chance of the storms, however, meaning the lone certainty in all this will be a spectacle at U.S. Cellular Field when Rodriguez returns to action.