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We Have the ARod Opinion, And It’s Really Bad

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Craig Calcaterra has read the opinion in the A-Rod arbitration. And the bottom line is that the apologists who thought there would be some kind of defensible logic to it, or that it would show that Rodriguez was involved in some kind of stunningly unprecedented bad behavior that would justify a suspension more than 3 times what his violations properly merited, were definitely wrong.

The best thing I can say about Horowitz’s opinion is that the (as it turns out) vastly exaggerated “obstruction” charges carried little weight, earning Rodriguez only 12 games. It still seems to be that the appropriate amount of suspension for “obstruction,” given that Rodriguez was not under any actual obligation to comply, would be nothing. But a relatively short suspension under XII(B) does not amount to a de facto circumvention of the JDA, and it also avoids the absurd result of punishing obstruction with a penalty more than twice the underlying defense.  I don’t agree with the judgment but it’s not entirely unreasonable.

But the argument that Horowitz settles on isn’t any better. The standard he does use is a transparently illogical one: Rodriguez was found to have committed multiple violations of PED use. The problem is that since virtually every first offender is guilty of multiple actual uses of PEDs, this amounts to throwing the penalties agreed to in the JDA out the window. In dispensing with the penalties agreed to in collective bargaining agreement, he doesn’t use a standard of his own that makes any sense:

But even the arbitrator seems uncomfortable with giving Selig a blank slate. He tries to look at the “guideposts” of the 50/100/life matrix in section 7(A) and sort of retrofit A-Rod’s drug use on to it. It’s a long passage, but it’s AMAZING. He says 7(A) doesn’t apply, so we go elsewhere, but if 7(A) DID apply, we’d be able to stack up 50-game penalties against A-Rod because he used three things…

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Never mind that the Neifi Perez case did not involve HGH or testosterone, it involved stimulants, which are treated quite differently. Never mind that other Biogenesis players — specifically Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera — were not given multiple levels of discipline because, according to baseball, they already did their time, as it were. This seems remarkably shaky to me. It is a new way of approaching drug discipline that just so happens to achieve Major League Baseball’s desired result of a lengthy suspension.

Major League Baseball actually argued for a lifetime ban here, saying that if A-Rod had three distinct offenses he’d get a 50, a 100 and a lifetime stacked on top of each other. That actually makes more sense to me. After all, if a player who got a 50 game test suspension last year tested positive for a different substance tomorrow, he’d get 100 games. There would not a be a 50 game suspension because it is a different substance, which is what the arbitrator is basically doing here. In essence, the arbitrator is going lighter on A-Rod than the logic he actually subscribes to would have him do. It would at least be intellectually consistent for him to ban Rodriguez for life. The arbitrator was obviously loathe to do that. But if the logic train he followed drove him off a cliff, maybe he shouldn’t have followed that logic train in the first place. Maybe he shouldn’t have tried to invent his own standard.

The best solution, given the untrammeled discretion afforded by 7(G), would still have been to act consistently with the spirit of the agreement and apply the penalty set by 7(A), which is 50 games, 62 if we want to throw in the penny-ante obstruction charge. He didn’t do that, and he didn’t quite not do it. It’s illogical on its face and subversive of the JDA. It singles out Rodriguez for extraordinary punishment based on characteristics he shares with every other player found to have used PED. (Awful as the argument was, at least the obstruction argument applied to behavior that was more unique to A-Rod.)

Like Calcaterra, I’m baffled that the MLBPA,  whose recent actions seem increasingly inept, as well as A-Rod’s legal team would stipulate that the penalties set by section 7(A) don’t apply although it’s the most natural reading of the contract.* I know that the MLBPA has an interest in strongly defending the arbitration process that transcends any one result, but Rodriguez did not get the MLBPA’s best defense.  I suspect that both this concession and its relatively tepid reaction to the excessive suspension are based in some measure on the belief that both Selig’s arbitrary suspension and Horowitz’s arbitrary and incoherent opinion largely upholding it reflect a belief that the the arbitrator’s consideration is limited to the present circumstances because problem of PED use by particularly disliked and highly paid symbols of the PED era generally presents many complexities.  And so, this level of excessive punishment will only be meted out to A-Rod even though it would logically apply to many other players and give the MLB a clear path to avoiding the JDA and doling out arbitrary punishment to any player it doesn’t like. The fact that with the minor exception of Braun the other Biogenesis players were properly given the punishment specified by 7(A) even though they were also all presumably guilty of multiple offenses of using PEDs according to the logic of this case may even mean that they’re right. But this is an extremely dangerous precedent, and Rodriguez — like him or not — has been treated very unfairly.

*As Sherm notes in comments, #82-3 of the complaint filed by Rodriguez’s legal team would seem to be inconsistent with the assertion that they conceded the 7(A) argument.  If Horowitz inferred from Rodriguez arguing that no violation of 7(A) occurred a stipulation that the 7(A) punishments wouldn’t apply even if a finding of PED use was found that would be hacktacular.

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