After months of waiting, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz has finally rendered his verdict: Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended 162 games—a full season—plus any postseason games, should the Yankees reach the playoffs this year.
Rodriguez was suspended last August games for his role in the Biogenesis PED affair, but he appealed the ruling and played the remainder of the 2013 season. While the suspension is a reduction from commissioner Bud Selig’s original ruling of 211 games (the remainder of 2013 plus 2014), Horowitz’s decision is a win for the Yankees in their quest to lower payroll. The suspension strikes from the books all of Rodriguez’s salary of $25 million for this season.
He is still scheduled on Wednesday to receive a $3 million payment as part of the original $10 million signing bonus from the 10-year deal he signed with the Yankees during the winter of 2007.
In all, the Yankees save $27.5 million—the average annual salary of Rodriguez’s contract—which will help them reduce their payroll below the $189 million luxury tax threshold, which the team’s management has stated repeatedly as a goal rather than a mandate.
The arbitrator’s ruling also allows New York to accelerate its pursuit of Japanese righthander Masahiro Tanaka, whose meetings with teams earlier this week signaled his first movement toward picking a team since the Rakuten Golden Eagles agreed to post the pitcher.
In a statement, the Yankees said they, “… respect Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel."
Rodriguez and his lawyers have made clear their intentions to seek an injunction in federal court against the suspension.
MLB’s statement on the ruling reads, “For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights. While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision made by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game.”
Rodriguez’s response, which he issued on his Facebook page and disseminated through Twitter, can be read below.
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB's first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.
“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court. I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players' contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me.
“I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship. I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal.”
The Yankees still owe Rodriguez $61 million through 2017. He hit .244/.348/.423 in 44 games in 2013 with seven home runs.