The Alex Rodriguez PED Saga
You know the name, you’ve heard the stories. Alex Rodriguez’s meteoric rise to fame and excessive fortune is outmatched only by his catastrophic fall from grace, the latest chapter of which is developing before our eyes.
Most baseball fans can remember the glory years of Alex Rodriguez, exploding into the major leagues in 1996 with a Silver Slugger-caliber season for the Mariners, finishing behind only Juan Gonzalez in MVP voting. His play in Seattle led to a record-breaking 10-year, $252 million deal with the Rangers, where Rodriguez would gather three more Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves and his first MVP award. In his first season in Texas he set a new personal record for homers with 52, a large jump from his 37 in Seattle, which many would argue was one of the first indicators of his PED use. Unfortunately the Rangers couldn’t find ways to win even with Rodriguez’s help, and he was ultimately traded to the Yankees, one of the only teams that could afford to take on his outrageous contract. During his first few seasons with the Yankees A-Rod continued to shine, earning MVP awards in 2005 and 2007.
The Beginning of the End
Then came the Mitchell Report. While Rodriguez was not named, hundreds of other players were, tarnishing reputations and finally bringing to light the rampant use of PEDs in Major League Baseball. With this report, MLB and the rest of the public became aware of how large a problem PEDs had become, bringing the dawn of the investigation era to baseball. Rodriguez famously denied using any performance-enhancing substances in an interview with Katie Couric, and maintained his innocence despite accusations from Jose Canseco as well. With his name absent from the Mitchell Report, suspicions were not raised too high.
In 2009, the first real allegations against A-Rod came in the form of a report by David Epstein and Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated which accused the superstar of using testosterone and Primobolan (a mild anabolic steroid). Rodriguez would soon tearfully admit to using these substances from 2001-2003, citing the pressure on him to perform as his reasoning. He denied using anything since then, but the damage to his reputation had already been done. Roberts later wrote a book alleging that A-Rod had been using PEDs since high school, and again during his time with the Yankees. Shortly after, in February 2010, A-Rod was linked to Anthony Galea, who eventually pleaded guilty to distributing PEDs. His plea came before an investigation could be launched into which players he had provided to, thus leaving A-Rod’s connection to him murky and mostly speculative.
In January 2013, the Miami New Times reported on a health clinic in South Florida called Biogenesis. Their report revealed that the clinic had distributed PEDs to a number of famous athletes, Rodriguez among them. He was hit with a 211-game suspension, which he immediately appealed, allowing him to play for the Yankees in the meantime. On November 20th, Rodriguez left his arbitration hearing, claiming to be the victim of “an abusive process”, and went on Mike Francesa’s WFAN studio in New York to deny all allegations of his connection to Biogenesis and founder, Anthony Bosch. Just a couple days ago on January 12th, Bosch appeared on “60 Minutes” and gave a “tell-all” interview, where he exposed almost every aspect of Rodriguez’s involvement with Biogenesis. Prior to Bosch’s interview, on January 11th, Rodriguez finally received the arbitrator’s decision, a 162-game ban—the entire 2014 season (including any postseason games). He will pursue a suit in a federal court to get the suspension reduced or dropped, but his chances are slim to none.
The Death Penalty
Many, myself included, speculate that this could be the end of A-Rod’s career, as it is unlikely the 38-year-old will be able to resurrect his abilities following a year off. His suspension will save the Yankees around $25 million this year, and it would certainly not surprise me if they simply cut him a check for the rest of the money that he is owed ($61 million). They can afford to do so, and eliminating the controversy and media circus that accompanies the man would be well worth the price. If the Yankees do seek a fresh, A-Rod-free start, I believe that it will spell the end of his tumultuous career. No other team will want to sign him just to have their fans boo him and have reporters crawling all over their stadium. This suspension is, in my opinion, a death penalty, and I believe we’ve seen the last of Alex Rodriguez on a professional baseball field.
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