NEW YORK — Major League Baseball may try to suspend Alex Rodriguez under its collective bargaining agreement instead of its drug rules, which would eliminate any chance of delaying a penalty until after the case goes to an arbitrator, The Associated Press has learned.
Rodriguez has never been disciplined for a drug offense, and a first offender under baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement is entitled to an automatic stay if the players’ association files a grievance — meaning the penalty is put on hold until after an arbitrator rules.
While use of banned performance-enhancing substances falls under the drug agreement, MLB may argue other alleged violations are punishable under the labor contract, a person familiar with management’s deliberations told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.
Taking that action would prevent the New York Yankees third baseman from returning to the field, even if he recovers from a quadriceps injury cited by the team as the reason for keeping him on the disabled list.
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And merely threatening to use that provision might give MLB leverage to force a deal.
The Yankees expect Rodriguez to be accused of recruiting other athletes for the clinic, of attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation, and of not being truthful with MLB in the past when he discussed his relationship with Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty two years ago to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.
Four years ago, Rodriguez admitted using PEDs while with Texas from 2001-03. He has repeatedly denied using them since.
Baseball has been investigating Rodriguez and other players since a January report in the Miami New Times alleging they received PEDs from Biogenesis of America, a closed anti-aging clinic on Florida.
“We’re still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter,” Rodriguez’s lawyer, David Cornwell, said Monday on ESPN New York Radio.
Aside from the drug agreement, there is no automatic stay for suspensions under baseball’s labor contract. Rodriguez could be punished under Article XII B of the Basic Agreement, which states: “Players may be disciplined for just cause for conduct that is materially detrimental or materially prejudicial to the best interests of baseball including, but not limited to, engaging in conduct in violation of federal, state or local law.”
If suspended under that section, Rodriguez would serve the penalty while a grievance is litigated before arbitrator Fredric Horowitz — unless the union asks for a stay and the arbitrator grants one. And baseball could always try to punish A-Rod on drug violations later.
It would be difficult for commissioner Bud Selig to remove the arbitrator from the process.
Rodriguez, who turned 38 on Saturday, has not played this season following hip surgery in January. The three-time American League MVP, fifth on the career list with 647 home runs, appeared to be on the verge of rejoining New York on July 22, but the Yankees said a day earlier that an MRI revealed a strained quadriceps.
Rodriguez pushed to be activated last Friday, but the Yankees said he wouldn’t even resume an injury rehabilitation assignment until Aug. 1. Rodriguez then went on a New York radio station to criticize the team’s decision.