Alex Rodriguez has vowed to finish his contract with the Yankees, but that might hinge on a successful appeal of the 211-game suspension imposed by Major League Baseball on Aug. 5 in the Biogenesis probe. Rodriguez has been playing pending the hearing, which is scheduled to begin Monday at the MLB offices in Manhattan.
A primer on the proceeding:
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How did MLB
come up with 211 games?
Rodriguez was disciplined under the joint drug prevention and treatment program and also MLB's basic agreement. Because he was deemed to have used and possessed numerous banned substances over a period of years, Rodriguez was assessed more than the 50-game suspension mandated for first-time violators. The remainder of the suspension comes from what MLB termed Rodriguez's "conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate'' its investigation of Biogenesis, the defunct anti-aging clinic in Miami that allegedly supplied Rodriguez and others with performance-enhancing drugs.
What will happen
during the appeal?
First, it will last several sessions, perhaps not on consecutive days. The grievance procedure allows Rodriguez to be represented not only by the Players Association but his own lawyers. When criminal attorney Joe Tacopina was hired, he said the evidence made available during discovery compelled him to advise Rodriguez not to accept any suspension. Tacopina hasn't changed that stance.
According to an industry source, MLB's lawyers will counter by telling arbitrator Fredric Horowitz that Rodriguez has had "multiple years of multiple substances'' leading up to Biogenesis. MLB will have Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch testify as to his relationship with Rodriguez. MLB also will show texts and phone records linking Rodriguez to Bosch.
Rodriguez's team, which has the right to cross-examine Bosch, will try to shake his credibility. According to a source, Rodriguez's lawyers will claim that even his own attorney issued a statement indicating that Bosch never treated Rodriguez. There is such a public statement, dated Jan. 29, 2013, the same day the Miami New Times first reported the alleged link between Rodriguez and other players to Bosch.
"If Horowitz throws out Bosch, the case is over,'' a source said. But the industry source said that although Bosch is a key player, MLB has plenty of evidence beyond what Bosch offers.
Neither side has held out much hope for a settlement before Horowitz rules.
How will the arbitrator
reach a decision?
While the outcome will be of vital importance to the participants, the hearing is considered informal and will have no strict legal guidelines, a former arbitrator has said. Horowitz can accept -- or reject -- whatever testimony, statements, records and exhibits he desires. He also is the sole judge of determining the credibility of the witnesses.
Horowitz will have up to 25 days to announce his decision, which will be made public. His written opinion will be made available only to the parties. Horowitz can uphold the suspension, overturn it or reduce the number of games.
History has shown clear-cut winners in arbitration. Former commissioner Fay Vincent said the best arbitrators do not say "What would I do if I were the commissioner?''; they say "Did the commissioner make the right decision?''
Can the arbitrator's decision be challenged?
Yes, but only in the judicial system, and legal observers have said the courts are reluctant to interfere with arbitration decisions. Sports law expert Warren Zola of Boston College said the grounds for such a challenge would be that the arbitration procedure "clearly ignored due process or there is some gross miscarriage of justice. That's a high bar under either standard.''
How much money
is on the line for Rodriguez?
There is about $86 million left on A-Rod's contract, which runs through 2017. He would lose an estimated $31 million if the suspension stands. The Yankees would save $25 million in payroll next season, which would help the team stay under $189 million and avoid the luxury tax in 2014.
Beyond that and considering the contentious relationship between the Yankees and Rodriguez, a decision upholding the suspension -- which would sideline Rodriguez until 2015 -- might spur both sides to engage in buying out the remainder of his contract.