Referring to what he termed a "slanderous attack'' against Alex Rodriguez, Joe Tacopina, the Yankees third baseman's lead attorney, on Thursday night called for MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred to be removed from the panel hearing Rodriguez's appeal of his 211-game suspension.
Tacopina's comments came after an exchange of statements throughout the day as the already pitched battle between the sides grew more incendiary.
Rodriguez accused commissioner Bud Selig of turning a "blind eye'' to "crimes'' being committed by MLB's investigators in the Biogenesis investigation that led to the third baseman's suspension. "How can the gross, ongoing misconduct of the MLB investigations division not be relevant to my suspension,'' he said, "when my suspension supposedly results directly from that division's work?''
Manfred, who is part of the three-person panel with Players Association general counsel David Prouty and chief arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, fired back, saying, "This latest sad chapter in Mr. Rodriguez's tarnished career is yet another example of this player trying to avoid taking responsibility for his poor choices . . . Mr. Rodriguez's use of PEDs was longer and more pervasive than any other player . . . ''
Tacopina followed that with a missive of his own, saying, "Alex did not use PEDs and Rob Manfred knows it. The fact that Manfred has committed so zealously to prosecuting Alex for offenses he knows he did not commit is why he persistently attacks Alex's character with baseless, cowardly allegations . . . Manfred clearly has hit a new level of desperation. He knows what his sworn testimony was on the subject of his and commissioner Selig's approach to PEDs being dealt to children, and MLB's willingness to turn a blind eye to such criminal misconduct in support of its quest to get Alex . . . Once it inevitably becomes public through other legal proceedings, he will have to answer for that. Rob Manfred has gone so far over the line with his latest slanderous attack against Alex (which presumably was approved by commissioner Selig) that we demand the other two arbitration panel members immediately remove Manfred from the panel hearing Alex's appeal . . . ''
Prouty had no comment and Horowitz did not respond.
MLB said in a statement, "Mr. Tacopina's latest rant is so delusional, it doesn't warrant a response.''
Rodriguez's arbitration hearing is scheduled to resume Nov. 18. The hearing is expected to end by Thanksgiving, with a decision possible by Christmas.