NEW YORK – Alex Rodriguez was dealt the most severe punishment in the history of baseball’s drug agreement when an arbitrator ruled the New York Yankees’ third baseman is suspended for the 2014 season as a result of a drug investigation by Major League Baseball.
The decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz on Saturday cut the suspension issued Aug. 5 by baseball commissioner Bud Selig from 211 games to this year’s entire 162-game regular-season schedule plus any postseason games. The three-time American League Most Valuable Player will lose $22.13 million of his $25 million salary.
Rodriguez, 38, vowed to continue his fight in federal court to reverse the decision.
“It’s virtually impossible. The arbitration will stand. I think it’s almost inconceivable that a federal court would overturn it,” said former commissioner Fay Vincent, a graduate of Yale Law School. “The arbitration is itself an appeal from the commissioner’s judgment. How many appeals do you go?”
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Rodriguez is perhaps the most high-profile player ensnared by baseball’s drug rules, which were first agreed to in 2002 as management and the union attempted to combat the use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. In sustaining more than three-quarters of Selig’s initial penalty, Horowitz’s decision will be widely viewed as a victory for the 79-year-old Selig, who has ruled baseball since 1992 and has said he will retire in January 2015.
A 14-time All-Star, Rodriguez — who played for the Mariners from 1994 through 2000 — has been baseball’s highest-paid player under a $275 million, 10-year contract that runs through the 2017 season. He has spent parts of the last six seasons on the disabled list.
Rodriguez admitted five years ago he used performance-enhancing drugs while with Texas from 2001 to 2003 but has denied using them since. He already sued MLB and Selig in October, claiming they are engaged in a “witch hunt” against him.
“The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one,” Rodriguez said in a statement Saturday.
The Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance last summer saying the discipline was without “just cause.”
The 65-year-old Horowitz, a California-based lawyer who became the sport’s independent arbitrator in 2012, heard the case over 12 sessions from Sept. 30 until Nov. 21. Technically, he chaired a three-man arbitration panel that included MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred and union general counsel Dave Prouty.
Horowitz ruled Selig would not have to testify.
The union said it “strongly disagrees” with the decision.
But the union also said, in a statement, it recognized “that a final and binding decision has been reached.”
Biogenesis of America founder Anthony Bosch testified in the hearing after reaching an agreement with MLB to provide evidence. Biogenesis is a now-defunct Florida anti-aging clinic.
Bosch and Manfred are to appear Sunday on the CBS program “60 Minutes.”
In an interview with “CBS Evening News on Saturday,” Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” said Bosch told him he administered six banned substances to Rodriguez, including testosterone and human growth hormone.