Of course, there can be no compassion for a two-time liar, the most despicable of all the baseball juicers. When Alex Rodriguez pounded a table and angrily left his own grievance hearing, the temptation was to laugh out loud and throw a party celebrating the official demise of his baseball life. “This is ridiculous!” he reportedly yelped before pointing at his adversary from the commissioner’s office, Rob Manfred, and saying, “This is f—ing bulls—.”
What’s “ridiculous,” of course, is that Rodriguez would tell us in 2009 that he was “young and stupid” when he used performance-enhacing drugs years earlier while promising never to use them again, then proceed to do just that by involving himself in the Biogenesis scandal. You also could say it’s “f—ing bulls—” that A-Rod continued down that foolish, deceitful route, warranting the 211-game suspension he is so desperately challenging.
But reviled as he is, Rodriguez also deserves a fair hearing. And when a supposedly neutral arbitrator in his case, Fredric Horowitz, decides not to require the presence of commissioner Bud Selig in the room to testify in front of Rodriguez’s lawyers, that does not constitute due process.
It smacks of the fix being in, actually — and underscores why I haven’t trusted Selig and his henchmen during The Steroids Era any more than I’ve trusted A-Rod and the chemical abusers. Selig and his boys conveniently turned their heads to the steroids onslaught two decades ago, remember, when baseball needed a surge after a destructive labor impasse and was receiving it from dopers who were pumping money and interest into the sport’s drying arteries. So when Rodriguez and his high-priced band of bloodhound lawyers and publicists vow to take down Selig as Selig takes down Rodriguez, then, yes, I think it’s only right that the commissioner testify and answer urgent questions about Rodriguez and The Steroids Era with A-Rod’s bulldogs firing away and Horowitz all ears.
I want the truth about PEDs. You want the truth about PEDs.
I deserve the truth about PEDs. You deserve the truth about PEDs.
Yet by refusing to testify — a decision upheld, quite suspiciously, by Horowitz — Selig is running from the truth. Bud Selig has run from the truth for 21 years, since Labor Day of 1992, when he and Chicago baseball mob boss Jerry Reinsdorf staged a power coup and removed the sport’s last independent commissioner, Fay Vincent, so they could run the show. What Selig and the owners have done, sadly, is run the sport into the ground, allowing what once was the national pastime to freefall into an old-man yawner where the average age of a World Series viewer this year — for a compelling six-game scrum, the lowest-rated Series ever to extend six or seven games — was 54.4 years.
It took Congress to embarrass Selig in the mid-2000s — by parading the juicers during landmark Capitol Hill hearings and making Bud sweat in front of the courtroom cameras — for Major League Baseball to initiate a serious crackdown against PEDs. Now, at 79 and a year from retirement, he wants his legacy to read that he finally eliminated PEDs from the sport with his actions in the Biogenesis scandal. In truth, Selig only wielded his new hammer after MLB was flush with substantial TV revenues and adorned with new ballparks. He is a used-car salesman to the end, making money for himself and his partners and running off. How fascinating that it took one fraud, Rodriguez, to call out another.
“I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails,” Rodriguez said in a statement. “I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process. This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the players’ association refused to order Selig to come in and face me.
“The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce.”
He then followed with the legal version of an extra-innings grand slam, appearing on New York’s biggest sports talk show to blast Selig and claim, dubiously enough, that he never used PEDs supplied by Anthony Bosch and the Miami-based Biogenesis anti-aging clinic. “I did nothing. About the Bosch nonsense? Nothing,” Rodriguez told host Mike Francesa on WFAN-AM.
As for Horowitz’s decision not to let the infamous tabloid lawyer, Joe Tacopina, to grill Selig, Rodriguez said, “It was disgusting. This thing should have ended with Selig on Thursday and me (testifying) on Friday. But he did not have the courage to look me in the eye.”
And Selig? “He hates my guts,” Rodriguez said. “It’s 100 percent personal. This is all about his legacy. To put me on his mantle would be a big trophy for him.”
The commissioner’s office waited until late afternoon to explain why Selig won’t testify. “In the entire history of the Joint Drug Agreement, the commissioner has not testified in a single case. Major League Baseball has the burden of proof in this matter,” MLB said in a statement. “MLB selected Rob Manfred as its witness to explain the penalty imposed in this case. Mr. Rodriguez and the Players Association have no right to dictate how baseball’s case is to proceed any more than baseball has the right to dictate how their case proceeds. Today’s antics are an obvious attempt to justify Mr. Rodriguez’s continuing refusal to testify under oath.”
In an earlier statement — why does MLB hide behind statements when Rodriguez and Tacopina appear on shows? — Selig’s office said, “For more than 40 years, Major League Baseball and the players’ association have had a contractual grievance process to address disputes between the two parties,” the statement said. “This negotiated process has served players and clubs well. Despite Mr. Rodriguez being upset with one of the arbitration panel’s rulings today, Major League Baseball remains committed to this process and to a fair resolution of the pending dispute.”
Fair? Unless Horowitz changes course and demands Selig to testify, this is a one-sided process. Rodriguez says he likely won’t be back in the room with Horowitz, adding, “What’s the point?” Horowitz should be keenly interested in claims by Rodriguez’s people that MLB engaged in “criminal” behavior in its probe of Rodriguez, which, ESPN.com has reported, included thug-like practices in pressuring witnesses and paying money for stolen Biogenesis documents. “MLB investigators knowingly purchased stolen documents in their quest to allow Commissioner Selig to act, for the first time, as if he was tough on PED use in baseball despite striking a cooperation deal with Anthony Bosch who MLB knows is under federal investigation for providing steroids to minors,” Jordan Siev, a lawyer for Rodriguez, said in a statement.
“The truth continues to be that we did not knowingly purchase stolen documents and there is an active police investigation to determine if the documents were in fact stolen,” MLB responded in a statement.
If there was a witch hunt of Rodriguez, Horowitz should want to know the details. If MLB had a deal with Bosch, Horowitz should want to know those details, too. That Horowitz doesn’t want to know tells me he might have a wink-wink deal with MLB and isn’t the right arbitrator for this case, and that Rodriguez and his supposed supporters at the Players Association should demand a new arbitrator. That, of course, could drag this tug-of-war into spring training, where Rodriguez conceivably could work out with the Yankees, the team that is trying to ruin him legally yet admits from a baseball standpoint that it could use his bat at third base. This case probably is headed to federal court, where A-Rod already has filed suit against Selig and MLB.
Meaning, The Steroids Era STILL won’t be over long after Selig is gone and Manfred, in all likelihood, will be the new commissioner.
In the end, Alex Rodriguez is a serial cheater who never should play in the big leagues again. But in a case where there are no heroes, Bud Selig is a villain, too. Running away from a hearing also makes him a weasel.