Thursday, August 8, 2013


"The Anglo-Saxon race is peculiarly subject... to spasms of paroxysmal righteousness... [which result] in trial by passion, by terror, by prejudice, by hate [and above all] by newspaper"-- William Dean Howells 

"All men are Jews"--- Bernard Malamud

211 games, really?  Major League Baseball has sentenced Alex Rodriguez to a suspension that would prevent him from playing until the season he turns forty and that effectively would end his baseball career and MLB claims it has meted out a sentence that is fair, reasonable, and in accordance with the MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (the "JDPP").   

Has the Commissioner's Office lost complete sight of the principle of equal treatment under the law or the axiom that the punishment should fit the crime?  Did Alan "Bud Selig" completely forget the judiciously calibrated disciplinary regime the JDPP enacted-- 50-games for a first-time violation; 100-games for a second infraction; a life-time suspension for a third offense.   What grievous crime could Rodriguez possibly have committed to warrant such a draconian punishment?  More importantly, on what basis, does the Commissioner's 211-game sanction rest other than punitive whimsy?  Its vaporous authority and arbitrary length indeed reeks of ulterior motive-- the wish-fulfillment of a Commissioner eager to heap all the blame for a drug epidemic on the shoulders of one player and to extenuate his own connivance in over twenty years of hypertrophied statistics that profited him and his former cronies in front-offices throughout the sport.  

Ever since that day in 2000 when Scott Boras inveigled Tom Hicks to sign the slugger for $252 million dollars and to distort forever the marketplace for free agent contracts, Alex Rodriguez has become baseball's eternal bete noire.   For in the Yankees' vain third-baseman--  a wayward fool desperate to please perhaps but hardly an cunning villain-- Alan "Bud" Selig, the Mass Man Par Excellence, nonetheless has found the ideal scapegoat to tar for guilt we all bear-- the game and its fans alike.  Guilt our culture bears collectively, in fact, for willful blindness to its own opportunistic core, for valuing performance over honor, for elevating profits over integrity, for worshiping athletes as gods instead of recognizing them as gifted but eminently mortal men and finally, for our relentless hunger for that extra edge, whether legal, moral, or even prudent.

Perhaps, Pontius Selig is hubristic enough to believe that by crucifying A-Rod-- by subjecting his career to a slow and asphyxiating death-- America's pastime not only can purge itself of its drug-addled past but it can redeem a nation awash in drugs designed to boost productivity, to arrest the aging process, and to improve performance.  Viagra, HGH, and Adderral to Botox, Creatine, and Jacked.   And a man named A-Rod shall arrive among us and shoulder our griefs and carry our sorrows and suffer for our transgressions.  

Don't forget that once upon a time, not long ago, right around the year A-rod made his Major League debut in fact, back when labor strikes and owner greed has prostrated the sport and fans shunned it, performance-enhancing drugs restored America's pastime to life.   Dramatic home run chases, bloated offensive statistics, and the rejuvenation of beloved but aging superstars attracted millions to the ballparks, set new attendance records, garnered lucrative new broadcast contracts, and spurred new revenue sources in advanced media. And overseeing it all sat Milwaukee Bud, the Midwest's favorite Ford dealer, flattering himself for resurrecting the sport and preening for the cameras.  Evidently, what he didn't bargained for was the backlash that would ensue when Jose Canseco constrained the people to see what we suspected all along but dared not to admit.  The Baseball Gods we all revered were simply fallible men no less prone to the quick fix than the rest of society.  For chemical wizardry, new, more potent designer drugs had eclipsed the amphetamines baseball players had feasted on for decades and made them bigger, stronger, faster.   But no one wants to hear that their God is just a little man behind the curtain equipped with the latest ingenuity modern science can supply.  The people clamored for blood.   Remember Caesar, you have a duty to please the people.  Crucify Him.  Congress intervened.  The owners and player's union finally found religion, agreed to the JDPP in 2006 and incorporated it into the League's collective bargaining agreement.

But now Pontius Bud threatens to vitiate the JDPP despite its proven record in identifying drug users, punishing offenders, and stemming the tide of PED use, if not entirely eliminating it.  His office offered all the other players implicated in the Biogenesis scandal a 50-game suspension, with the exception of Ryan Braun who already had tested positive once before for banned substance.  Selig even commuted the sentences of Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon to time-served.  Why does Alex Rodriguez deserve a sanction four times as severe?  Because he lied about it?  Well, Melky Cabrera fabricated an entire internet to conceal his drug use.  Because A-Rod didn't roll over when Major League Baseball decided to appoint a director of the Secret Service to spearhead its Starr chamber?  Or rather, he exercised his right to defend himself, like Braun did last year and he only received a 65-game sentence.   No, A-Rod's punishment smacks of some tyrant's edict contrived out of thin air because Pontius Bud has an illusion to protect-- the illusion that home run records compiled across centuries of rules changes, modifications to mound height, variation in the ball's composition, contracted stadium dimensions, racial exclusions, and human evolution still enshrine some kind of timeless, sacrosanct totem of merit.   And for this illusion, A-Rod must pay.  The Commissioner has to foreclose A-Rod's pursuit of Mays', Ruth's, Aaron's, and Bond's home run milestones, so we all can forget the little man behind the curtain.   Admit Alex that you are not the King of Baseball, says Pontius Bud.  Or else suffer the penalty of death

Let's hope Frederic Horowitz can restore sanity and justice as MLB's appointed arbitrator for players' grievances has done so often in the past.   Below are four precedents in which an arbitrator has curbed draconian sentences handed down by the Commissioner's office.   Anyone of which would warrant granting A-Rod clemency as well.

1) In 1984, KC Royals' Willie Wilson was convicted for attempt to purchase cocaine.   Kuhn suspended him for one (1) year.  The Arbitrator reduced his suspension to one (1) month. 
2) In 1984, Commissioner Kuhn suspended Pascual Perez for cocaine possession from Opening Day through May 15th.  Arbitrator Richard A. Bloch commuted Perez' suspension to April 29th 
2) In 1986, SD Padre LaMarr Hoyt committed three separate drug charges.  The Padres terminated his contract. Commissioner Ueberroth suspended him for one year.  The Arbitrator reinstated his contract and abridged the suspension to 60 days.
3) In 1991, Vincent banned NYY Steve Howe for life.  Arbitrator George Nicolau reinstated Howe after he'd served about 120 days of the sentence.
4) In 1995, Milwaukee's Bud ousted then SF Giant Daryl Strawberry for 60 days beginning April 25, 1995 (Opening Day in the strike-truncated season).  The SF Giants released him before Strawberry's salary arbitration hearing and maintained accordingly that they owed him nothing.   Arbitrator George Nicolau ordered the SF Giants to pay him $125,000.  The Yankees signed Strawberry on June 19, 1995.