Allow me to preface: I do not pity Alex Rodriguez (“A-Rod”), and I am not the only one that does not feel sympathy for him. In fact, I would assume that the vast majority of sports fans feel no sympathy for the man, but why? Is it because he is the youngest Major League Baseball (“MLB”) player to hit 500 home runs? Or is it because he is the youngest to reach 600 home runs, surpassing the great Babe Ruth? Maybe it is because in December 2007, the New York Yankees rewarded him with a 10-year, $275 million contract, making him the recipient of the richest contract in baseball history. Or maybe and most likely, it is because A-Rod is a cheater.
There is no denying the fact that A-Rod cheated. He used performance-enhancing substances (“PES”) in order to play at the top of his game, and there were suspicions that he was a cheater early in his career. But before the suspicions were confirmed, even before the suspicions existed, most sports fans did not care for A-Rod. He just rubs people the wrong way. Admittedly, the percentage of fans that dislike him has grown since the allegations of substance abuse were confirmed, but the public disdain for him has always existed.
Bosch “provided hormone replacement and nutritional medicine services to a variety of clients at his ‘anti-aging’ clinic in South Florida.”
The dispute began in early 2013, when MLB was informed of a PES operation conducted by Anthony Bosch. Bosch provided hormone replacement services to a range of clients at his “anti-aging” clinic in Florida. On January 29, 2013, the Miami New Times published an article identifying Bosch and his company, Biogenesis of America, LLC, as having supplied PES to Alex Rodriguez and other MLB players. The article received immediate national attention and “set the stage for a very public battle between MLB and Rodriguez.”
Shortly after receiving this news, MLB filed a complaint against Bosch and Biogenesis alleging unlawful conduct and tortious interference with MLB’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program (“JDA”). The JDA (pdf) is an agreement between the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association (“Players Association”). Intriguingly, this case was settled shortly after extensive discovery, and Bosch promised to proffer truthful information and testify against any MLB player regarding their acquisition, possession, or use of PES. In exchange, MLB dismissed Bosch from the lawsuit, and promised to pay Bosch’s legal fees and immunize him from any claim brought by a MLB Player, so long as he fulfilled his obligations under the agreement.
Once the lawsuit against Bosch and Biogenesis was dropped, Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig issued a Notice of Discipline to Alex Rodriguez. The notice cited Section 7.G.2 of the JDA and Article XII(B) of the Basic Agreement (“BA”), and it set A-Rod’s initial suspension at an unprecedented “211 regular-season games (plus, if applicable, any 2013 postseason games in which [he] would have been eligible to play).” The discipline taken under Section 7.G.2 of the JDA was based on A-Rod’s use of PES, while the discipline under Article XII(B) was founded on A-Rod’s alleged attempts to obstruct and frustrate MLB’s investigation.
After the 211-game suspension was issued, A-Rod filed a grievance with MLB that led to a 12-day arbitration hearing. The arbitrator upheld the suspension, but he ultimately reduced the duration to a still unprecedented 162 games.
Has baseball’s quest to clean up the sport turned into a witch-hunt?
No one would argue that Major League Baseball has a duty to punish cheaters and clean up baseball, but in A-Rod’s case, have things gone too far? Has baseball’s quest to clean up the sport turned into a witch-hunt?
A-Rod’s legal team certainly thought so, which is why on January 13, 2014, Alex Rodriguez filed a complaint against Major League Baseball, the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and the Players Association.
A-Rod claimed that the Players Association breached its duty of fair representation, that MLB breached the collective bargaining agreement (which govern the terms and conditions of MLB players’ employment), and that the arbitration was not impartial and that it prejudiced A-Rod.
Some felt it was an “attempt by MLB to obtain documents to discipline its employees, not an attempt to vindicate an actual legal injury.”
As to the Players Association’s breach of its duty of fair representation, the duty exists as a result of federal labor law. The Players Association was A-Rod’s exclusive representative and thus had a duty to represent A-Rod in good faith and without discrimination. A-Rod claimed that the Association failed to respond to MLB’s breaches of confidentiality. The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program prohibits the MLB and the Players Association from disclosing “[a]ny and all information relating to a Player’s involvement in the Program.” According to the complaint, MLB breached its non-disclosure agreement by leaking information to the press (ESPN, Yahoo Sports, The New York Daily News, etc.), and the Players Association refused to take action.
Again, the lawsuit described the Players Association as an aloof organization unconcerned with A-Rod’s rights as a Major League Baseball Player. But this time, the Players Association allegedly failed to protect A-Rod from MLB’s document-seeking lawsuit.
MLB’s lawsuit claimed that Bosch and Biogenesis were causing harm to MLB through tortious interference, but A-Rod’s legal team and other legal analysts vehemently disagreed. A-Rod’s complaint alleged the “true purpose for the Biogenesis Suit was to seek ‘evidence’ that would allow MLB to publicly shame Mr. Rodriguez and to interfere with his career and business dealings.” A-Rod also stated in his complaint that some felt it was an “attempt by MLB to obtain documents to discipline its employees, not an attempt to vindicate an actual legal injury.” Others went so far as to “doubt MLB cares much about getting to damages from [Bosch and other] . . . It’s about getting to the discovery.” In hindsight, these allegations appear to be spot-on considering MLB’s deal with Anthony Bosch.
Based on the JDA, A-Rod’s punishment should be 50 games, but he was given a 162-game ban.
The complaint then reiterated the previous allegations but directed them at MLB as opposed to the Players Association. In addition to the previous allegations, A-Rod’s legal team stated that the ruling and suspension were without just cause, and punishment without just cause is a violation of the agreement between MLB and the Players Association. For clarification, the allegation did question not whether MLB had “just cause” in general, but rather whether MLB had “just cause for the penalty imposed.”
The complaint ended by taking issue with the Arbitrator’s ruling. It stated that the reduced punishment handed down by the Arbitrator “does not draw its essence from the JDA or BA.” Specifically, the JDA conditions punishment on the number of previous violations. First-time violators serve a 50-game suspension, and the punishment double for second-time violators. Third-time violators may be subject to a permanent suspension. Based on the JDA, A-Rod’s punishment should be 50 games, but he was given a 162-game ban.
The other alleged issues with the arbitration are procedural, and they included:
- The Arbitrator’s ruling on testimonial evidence prejudiced Mr. Rodriguez and manifestly disregarded the law;
- Arbitrator prevented A Rod’s experts from analyzing key evidence;
- Arbitrator admitted unreliable, inauthentic evidence at the arbitration;
- Arbitrator Horowitz permitted leaks of confidential information throughout the hearing; and
- Arbitrator Horowitz is incentivized to Rule in MLB’s favor.
The most hated player in Major League Baseball.
The Supreme Court has established very “narrow grounds for overturning an arbitrators’ decision, and legal experts said Rodriguez had virtually no chance of succeeding.” Most legal analysts ignored this lawsuit and only saw it as a way for A-Rod to get back at MLB. It appears A-Rod has finally come to this understanding as well.
On February 7, 2014, A-Rod dropped his lawsuit against MLB, the Players Association, and the Commissioner, likely because it would cost A-Rod roughly $10 million to continue with the litigation. This adds up when you consider he has already lost $25 million is salary during the suspension. Another reason, and perhaps the saddest of all the purported reasons, is that A-Rod is “seeking to reconcile with baseball in hopes of continuing to work in the industry once his playing days are finished.” Although dropping the lawsuit will certainly help his relationship with the sport, to many baseball fans his legacy, reputation, and standing with the game have dissipated to a point of almost no return.
MLB had it out for A-Rod, but nothing occurred that would make MLB liable. By conducting extensive discovery and then choosing to drop its lawsuit with Anthony Bosch, MLB circumvented its own arbitration policy so that it could uncover evidence about its own players. While this may seem to go beyond acceptable boundaries, MLB still did not breach its contract with the Players Association because the lawsuit was made in good faith. Further, the Players Association’s lackadaisical representation of A-Rod during his grievance process never reached the level of breach because the Players Association continued to do what was required of them. Although it was the bare minimum, the Players Association still met the level of representation necessary.
It is obvious from the unprecedented suspension that MLB does not care for A-Rod. It is obvious from the lack of representation by the Player’s Association that the Players do not respect him. And it is obvious from the arbitration award that the Arbitrators do not like him. So, do I have sympathy for A-Rod? No. But it is clear that MLB wanted to attack Alex Rodriguez in order to set an example, and who better than the most hated player in MLB.