COMMENTARY — On Monday, the day that A-Rod officially became A-Roid, Bud Selig proved that Major League Baseball is serious about ending the era of juice-ball.
The commissioner handed down more than a dozen suspensions for violations of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Out of the 13 players punished, 12 of them admitted their wrong-doing, negotiated with MLB and were given 50-game suspensions. The dirty dozen ranged from top-shelf talent like shortstops Jhonny Peralta at Detroit and Everth Cabrera at San Diego, as well as Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, down to a couple of free-agent pitchers looking for work plus a handful of minor leaguers.
All of them will forego their right to appeal, and will work on their golf game for the rest of the 2013 season.
And then there’s Alex Rodriguez.
The Yankees third baseman is the highest-paid player in the game today, and he acted like it. Negotiations with MLB went nowhere, as A-Rod continued to plead his innocence in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary.
So instead of getting by with 50 games off, Selig dropped the hammer on Rodriguez — 211 games, or the rest of this season and all of 2014. Selig could have issued a lifetime ban, but didn’t; however, with the slugger having just turned 38 years old, anything of that length is close to a career-ending sentence. As it is, this suspension is the longest ever issued short of a lifetime heave-ho.
Rodriguez has already stated his intent to repeal, and so he’s back on the diamond — New York’s game with the White Sox on Monday was his first this year, after a long rehab stint due to arthroscopic surgery on his hip. While Selig ponders the appeal, A-Rod is free to keep playing. That’s his right and I have no problem with that, but he’s going to need that huge salary just to pay his legal team.
I’m just glad to see Selig not be afraid to hand out a severe punishment to one of the sport’s marquee players. He now realizes that a major move had to be made to restore faith in the game, which still suffers from the aftermath of tainted home run king Barry Bonds, as well as sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It’s ironic that conventional wisdom claims the latter two “saved baseball” from the aftermath of the 1994 MLB strike with their chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record in 1998, but now their efforts are suspect as well, thanks to McGwire’s admitted use of steroids and suspicions of the same with Sosa.
Selig could have caved with A-Rod, given his star status on the game’s most famous team. But he didn’t. For once, he acted like the commissioner of baseball and not just an old team owner.
Selig’s move won’t benefit Rodriguez or the Bronx Bombers, but it will benefit the sport — and that’s what matters most.