Milestones and Money
As we are quickly approaching an historic milestone in baseball history, an omnipresent dark cloud is also looming on the horizon. We all know by now about a certain slugger for a certain team that has in his contract to receive a bonus for a certain amount should and when he reaches certain milestone home runs as a player for that certain team.
Let's be certain here.
Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez, born in
New York, raised
in Miami, proudly hailing from is approaching one
of baseball's hallowed numbers...660. And, per the most recent contract that
was mutually agreed on with the New York Yankees, Mr. Rodriguez will be due a
six million dollar bonus for reaching Willie Mays' career home run total. Westminster Christian
The New York Yankees keepers of some of the most revered numbers (3, 4, 5, 7, 8(twice), 9 ,15, 16, 56, 714, 28 ) will have to pony up some money for the newest one, 660. But don't count on it.
Ostensibly, the Yankees will refuse to pay the bonus specified in the contract, arguing that ARod's accomplishments are tainted by his involvement with Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). The Yankees will argue that they had plans to market Alex and his approach to each milestone that he approaches in their own inimitable way...t-shirts, hats, plaques and the like. They will argue that ARod's use of the PED' will detract and embarrass any attempt to market or capitalize on his assault on the home run title.
Mr. Rodriguez will challenge the team's decision to withhold payment, saying that the mutually agreed contract will prevail on legal terms. In 2008, when Rodriguez signed his most recent contract, there was rumors of his involvement with steroids and other performance enhancing entities, but no proof, and ARod denied them wholeheartedly. And then he signed his contract.
In early 2009, signed contract in hand, Alex admitted in an interview that he had, in fact, taken steroids in 2001-2003, a decision that he regretted. He said at the time that he had not used any substances during his years with the Yankees.
In 2013, while recovering from hip surgery, the Biogenesis story broke, with allegations of ARod's involvement in ongoing violations of the league's banned substance policy. And to further convolute the issue, he was also accused of attempting to cover-up the issue and the investigation.
He was suspended for a record 211 games, essentially the remainder of the 2013 season, and the entirety of the 2014 season. He was able to play while awaiting an appeal of the suspension, and was able to play in 44 games and the post season.
The Yankees will lose their argument.
They knew about the PED use in 2001-2003, and did not move to have the current contract amended in any way. For this, they will pay. Taking personal feelings out of the matter, and looking at things in black & white, the Yankees set themselves up for this back in the late 80's, when they fought the commissioner's office to overturn one of the lifetime suspensions doled out to the late Steve Howe, a left handed reliever with a rubber arm and a substance abuse problem.
Howe was suspended on seven different occasions for drug issues, the last being a lifetime ban set by Fay Vincent in 1992. Howe and the Yankees appealed the decision, and it was overturned by an independent arbiter.
The role of the commissioner should not be overlooked in these cases. Vincent, a true commissioner, thought he was acting in the 'best interest of baseball', a terminology that hasn't been used in baseball for twenty years.
Allan 'Bud' Selig, who recently retired as the baseball commissioner remains the only owner to act as commissioner. His decisions reflect a weighted slant towards ownership, and has been responsible for many changes in the game, good...and bad. I won't delve into those at this time, but I believe his inability to effectively enforce the substance policies helped create the issue that the Yankees and Rodriguez are facing.
His fans will speak of his initiating a stricter performance enhancing drug screening program in 2005, a full 13 years after taking office and with the public embarrassment of no less than two books written by players that openly talked about rampant steroid abuse.
One you may be familiar with was "Juiced" by Jose Canseco. The other by a pitcher whom I won't name, who stated that at least forty percent of major leaguers were using some sort of PED in the early twenty-first century. His publisher buckled under pressure from the MLB and the MLBPA to change the wording in the book to say 'a few' instead of forty percent.
When Selig handed out suspensions for players involved in the Biogenesis situation, there were eighteen players who were punished. Most received the mandatory 50 games. Ryan Braun of Mr. Selig's former team was suspended for 65 games and ARod with the 211 games.
Three of those players had previously served a 50 game suspension, and were deemed to have 'served their time'. Only Rodriguez protested. As a result, he was finally suspended for the entire 2014 season, and is ready for a breakout 2015...milestones and all.
Had Mr. Selig stepped in and suspended ARod for his earlier admitted indiscretions, this money for milestones talk would be a non-issue.
If this gets appealed to the new commissioner, Rob Manfred, I honestly don't know how he will rule, but I know that whatever he decides won't be enough. The appeal will be in a court of law, and I think the Yankees will lose. (It may be the non-Yankee fan in me saying that) I think the precedent has been set, and it was set by the Yankees. So we shall see.
Meanwhile, 660 awaits.
And so does the cash.