Ryan Braun suspended for remainder of season; Is A-Rod next?
GalleriesA-Rod's ups and downs as a Yankee Alex Rodriguez plays in rehab assignment Tainted MLB players
After Major League Baseball announced Monday that Ryan Braun has been suspended without pay for the remainder of this season, a total of 65 games, it appears that Alex Rodriguez may face punishment for his reported connection to Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic under investigation for allegedly distributing performance-enhancing drugs.
A person familiar with the situation cautioned that Braun's announcement did not necessarily mean more would be coming right away. ESPN reported that MLB's plan is to reveal all of the other suspensions at once, including A-Rod's, with a source telling the network that the evidence against him "is far beyond" what MLB had on Braun, which is likely to make his suspension longer.
With Braun now the first domino to fall from Biogenesis, and Rodriguez's stay on the disabled list extended Sunday by a Grade 1 quadriceps strain, it's looking more doubtful than ever that A-Rod will rejoin the Yankees this season.
As recently as Friday, the Yankees talked about Rodriguez being in Monday night's starting lineup against the Rangers. But those plans were scuttled Sunday when an MRI revealed the strain, and A-Rod had not yet shown his face at the team's Tampa complex as of Monday afternoon.
"I think we were all hopeful we were going to get him back," Joe Girardi said before Monday night's game in Texas, "but you have to move on."
Braun supposedly had put his PED past behind him after winning an appeal of a 50-game suspension for testing positive for elevated levels of testosterone after his MVP season in 2011. But he chose not to challenge MLB's ruling this time around. The suspension will cost Braun roughly $3.4 million in salary.
"As I have acknowledged in the past, I am not perfect," Braun said Monday in a statement. "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions. I wish to apologize to anyone I may have disappointed -- all of the baseball fans, especially those in Milwaukee, the great Brewers organization, and my teammates."
Considering that Braun escaped punishment for his 2011 positive on a technicality -- the suspension was overturned by a chain-of-custody dispute regarding the testing sample -- he was fortunate to get only 65 games. A second offense normally carries a 100-game suspension, and his salary jumps significantly to $10 million next year and $12 million in 2015. Braun's $105-million extension, signed in April 2011, begins in 2016.
"We commend Ryan Braun for taking responsibility for his past actions," said Rob Manfred, MLB's executive vice president for economics and league affairs. "We all agree that it is in the best interests of the game to resolve this matter. When Ryan returns, we look forward to him making positive contributions to Major League Baseball, both on and off the field."
Rodriguez appeared on the same Biogenesis lists as Braun, and MLB interviewed him on July 12 in Tampa. Both A-Rod and Braun reportedly refused to answer questions from MLB regarding the investigation. Initially, when details of the Biogenesis' lists and the alleged PED-distributing activity of its founder, Tony Bosch, were first revealed by the Miami New Times, Rodriguez and Braun denied any connection to the South Florida clinic.
The Yankees have left the matter in MLB's hands since the start of this year, and Rodriguez has scarcely been around the club, skipping all of spring training before making one cameo on Opening Day. His 20-day rehab assignment expired Sunday, but Rodriguez is expected to remain in Tampa until his strained quad heals -- possibly in the next week -- and the Yankees medically clear him to return.
Would Rodriguez simply roll over for a suspension as Braun did Monday? A-Rod is due another $11 million over the final 63 games of this season, and is owed roughly $100 million total through 2017.
Because the paper trail and witness testimony being used in the Biogenesis case is a "non-analytical positive" -- meaning one without a positive drug test -- MLB does not have to follow the standard 50-100-lifetime ban protocol. The commissioner's office can impose whatever suspension it deems appropriate, according to the collective bargaining agreement.
Michael Weiner, the executive director for the Players Association, said last week that the appeals process, should some players choose to go that route, likely would not begin until September. With a 25-day window for an arbitrator to make a decision, Weiner said that could push suspensions into 2014. Based on the expediency of Braun's punishment, however, it will be interesting to see how many players opt for a plea instead.
"I am deeply gratified to see Ryan taking this bold step," Weiner said in a statement. "It vindicates the rights of all players under the Joint Drug Program."
With Erik Boland
in Arlington, Texas