MLB wanted to excise A-Rod from their sight and that’s what they got. Everything they did from the start of this investigation, suspension and arbitration hearing was based on following through on their “get tough” policy on performance enhancing drug use. They used a player who is universally despised and has the gaudiest records of this era as the symbol for their seriousness. They put forth the pretense of evenhandedness in the arbitration process.
For the casual fan, they succeeded on all counts. For those who know better and have no vested interest in the outcome one way or the other, it’s clear that the deck was stacked against A-Rod from the beginning and MLB was going to get him one way or the other. If that meant paying for Anthony Bosch to testify, they were going to do it. If that meant firing the previous arbitrator Shyam Das for committing the ultimate sin in the eyes of MLB and finding in favor of Ryan Braun in his appeal for his suspension for PED use after the 2011 season, that was no problem. Because A-Rod is so reviled and has such a long and extensive record of prevarications, public embarrassments and unrepentant flouting of the rules, he was the ideal player for their public execution.
It’s not simply that A-Rod used PEDs. It was the way he did it. When other players stopped after MLB was dragged before congress and Bud Selig looked like an inept and doddering figurehead; Sammy Sosa claimed he didn’t speak English; and Rafael Palmeiro angrily wagged his finger in the faces of our elected representatives, A-Rod just kept right on going as if the rules applied to everyone but him.
MLB will never confess to winking and nodding at players using PEDs for the sake of the greater good—rejuvenating the game after the dark autumn of 1994 and making a lot of money—but once the poorly hidden skeletons were dragged from the crawlspace, they truly expected players to stop. It was a business move to get congress off their collective backs and to sell a “clean” product to their fans. Yet A-Rod went on as before trying to find masking agents, undetectable PEDs, recommending doctors and regimens to young players, behaving as if he was untouchable and nothing had changed.
Every week it was something else. MLB and the Yankees were tired of him not only being in the front of the newspaper rather than the back, but they had to face facts that he was also on the way to passing two and possibly three baseball immortals on the career home run list. Willie Mays is six homers away, Babe Ruth within reach and Hank Aaron a possibility if A-Rod was at least competent for the remainder of his contract. It’s bad enough that Barry Bonds is the career leader in home runs, but to have A-Rod as number two or three? MLB couldn’t have that.
Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz made a conciliatory decision to reduce the 211 game penalty to 162 games to make it appear as if A-Rod won a small concession, but he didn’t. It was a transparent attempt to look “fair”when the decision was actually in lockstep with what MLB worked so hard and spent so much money to achieve.
This was a multiple-pronged endeavor for MLB and they fulfilled all of their objectives by getting A-Rod out of baseball for a year and perhaps for the rest of his life. It can be said that they “won,” but in truth there was no chance of them losing this phase of the case, the one they could control. It was procedural and over before it started. MLB didn’t spend all this time, resources and effort to let A-Rod dodge their guillotine. It showed in their tactics and results.