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We live in a topsy-turvy world when the highest paid player in baseball faces a long-term suspension and his own team is OK with that but opponents don’t think it’s fair.
Unless you’ve been vacationing on another planet, you know that Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees has been suspended for 211 games for apparently using steroids the last three years after admitting he used them in 2003 but saying he was clean since then.
He is playing while he appeals the suspension, but considering that Major League Baseball reportedly has solid evidence that he also tried to obstruct its investigation, he should consider himself lucky to have gotten off with the sentence he received instead of the lifetime ban that Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig reportedly wanted to invoke.
When Selig was considering a lifetime ban, no one heard the Yankees complain. A-Rod is 38 and, steroids or no steroids, clearly way past his prime. Yankee Manager Joe Girardi pinch-hit for him in every clutch situation in last year’s playoffs because he hit .111 with no extra-base hits or RBIs in the postseason.
Yet the Yankees owe him $96 million for the rest of this year and the next four years on a guaranteed 10-year contract that they were dumb enough to sign him to Dec. 13, 2007.
The only way he does not receive all that money is if he is suspended, in which case he would be docked for the time he misses.
Even with the mediocre team they have this year, the Yankees will make money whether they have to pay A-Rod or not, thanks to their large market area and mega-bucks local TV contract.
But like all big corporations, they would like to make more money. And under MLB’s current collective bargaining agreement, teams with really high payrolls have to pay a luxury tax, which is divided among the lowest revenue teams.
The Yankees want to lower their luxury tax. And if they got rid of A-Rod’s salary, they could pursue a more productive, younger free agent and give him a nice contract but still pay him less than they’re paying A-Rod.
Thus Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter recently complained that he didn’t think it would be fair for A-Rod to get a lifetime ban, saying that he guaranteed that if A-Rod did receive such a ban the Yankees would sign talented young Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters in two years when he becomes a free agent.
Showalter knows how the Yankees operate, as he also managed them for four years.
But if A-Rod could still hit 57 homers and drive in 142 runs in a season, Showalter wouldn’t complain about his receiving a long suspension.
When A-Rod’s appeal of his suspension is heard, the arbitrator will probably shorten it to 65 games, or no more than 100. Most of the other players caught in the recent investigation received 50-game suspensions.
Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, like A-Rod, had apparently been guilty of using steroids before and lied to MLB and everyone about it and got off on a technicality. So he received a 65-game suspension, which is probably what the arbitrator will use as a guide for what A-Rod should get.
That should make Showalter happy.
For future contracts, though, MLB should make a rule that if player is suspended he doesn’t get his guaranteed money but it still counts against his team’s luxury tax and the team has to pay that money to charity.
That would be fairer for all and might make teams think twice about giving a big, long-term contract to suspected steroid users.