July 31, 2013

Rodriguez's fate prompts questions

By RONALD BLUM The Associated Press

In question-and-answer form, a look at the issues and implications of Major League Baseball's possible suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez:

 

Q: What penalties face Alex Rodriguez and why?

A: Rodriguez is among at least a dozen players MLB had been investigating since the Miami New Times published documents in January alleging links between the major leagues and Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod faces up to a lifetime ban, with the Yankees expecting him to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, attempting to obstruct MLB's investigation, and not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.

 

Q: What will he be suspended for and why?

A: If he does not agree to a deal with MLB, he may be suspended first for violations of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, which would prevent him from playing while the union files a grievance and an arbitrator determines whether the penalty meets a "just cause" standard.

MLB may use a provision in the Basic Agreement that states: "Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law." Rodriguez could later be suspended for violating the Joint Drug Agreement. He has never been suspended under the JDA, and a suspension for a first offender is served only after an arbitrator upholds the penalty.

 

Q: Why are suspensions for players linked to the Biogenesis investigation likely this week?

A: The penalty for a first positive test for steroids under the Joint Drug Agreement is a 50-game suspension, and that appears to be the likely discipline for several players MLB has targeted.

This is the last week a player could accept a 50-game suspension and serve it in time to return either for the postseason, if his team advances, or the start of the 2014 season.

 

Q: How likely is a lifetime ban for Rodriguez?

A: If Rodriguez agrees to accept a suspension and doesn't ask the players' association to file a grievance challenging the penalty, the suspension likely would be for a year or two. If MLB announces a penalty unilaterally, if could be a lifetime ban, but an arbitrator could reduce it after a hearing.

When Commissioner Fay Vincent suspended Yankees pitcher Steve Howe for life in 1992, after his seventh suspension for drugs or alcohol, arbitrator George Nicolau reduced the penalty to 119 days.

 

Q: Any other lifetime bans in baseball?

A: The most famous occurred in 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned Chicago White Sox pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Claude "Lefty" Williams, first baseman Chick Gandil, shortstop Charles "Swede" Risberg, third baseman Buck Weaver, outfielders "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and Happy Felsh and infielder Fred McMullen for throwing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati. Landis acted a day after they were acquitted on criminal charges.

Phillies infielder Gene Paulette (1921), New York Giants pitcher "Shufflin"' Phil Douglas (1922), New York Giants outfielder Jimmy O'Connell and Coach Cozy Dolan (1924) and Philadelphia Phillies president William D. Cox (1943) were banned either for life or indefinitely over gambling or bribery issues, and New York Giants outfielder Benny Kauff (1921) was suspended indefinitely by Landis following his indictment on charges of auto theft and possession of a stolen car.

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