When it comes to the MLB and its fraught relationship with PEDs, the Biogenesis saga already has the feel of something historically significant, if difficult.
The league has already banned Ryan Braun for the remainder of the regular season and has its sights set on the remainder of the offenders. For the first time, it has the widespread support of the clean players, who now see their cheating teammates not as comrades to be defended but as parasites to the game they love and the living they get from it.
“Once Braun was suspended, you saw the quotes and the comments from a lot of different players across the country pretty upset with having to answer all the questions about steroids, the reputation that players now have about steroids,” Tom Verducci explains on the Morning Show.
Unlike previous crusades to crack down on PED users, the Sports Illustrated writer tells Tiki, Brandon, and Dana that this does not have the feel of a Bud Selig witch hunt. Rather, all of baseball is now unified on this issue against those who would tarnish its legacy.
“I think it’s really turned a corner,” he says. “At least as it related to Braun, a little bit of a watershed moment—to say the players now are there to represent the clean players and not protect the dirty ones.”
At the forefront of the dirty ones is Alex Rodriguez, who is currently embroiled in a bitter, backwards standoff with his own team. The besieged player wants back on the field, but the frustrated organization wants no part of him.
“It’s almost now become personal with the Yankees,” Verducci proposes. “Where getting back is not just about playing baseball but literally getting back at the Yankees.”
The theory is that the Bronx Bombers want to shell out as little of A-Rod’s nine-digit deal as possible. They currently seem to be delaying his rehab as much as possible, which allows them to keep collecting insurance on his contract, with the hope that a severe Biogenesis suspension could take care of the rest.
“It’ll be curious to see how far he goes with that fight,” the SI writer says. “In other words, he’s probably looking at anything between 150 games and a lifetime ban. If he does challenge it, if there is a fight here, maybe all the evidence that MLB has collected begins to come out.”
“It’s sort of a scorched-earth policy if he thinks his best course of action is to bring it to an arbitration panel and make MLB prove their case—not only prove their case, but prove that he deserves a lengthy suspension because it could be a precedent-setting suspension, and those are difficult to hold up,” he adds.
In the meantime, Verducci also expects New York to finally relent and allow A-Rod back on the field this season. As he sees it, the Yankees could bear for Rodriguez to play the final two months of the 2013 season as long as he ends up on the shelf the year after.
“It’s more important to the Yankees to have him suspended next year because they need to get their payroll down to $189 million next year, and that resets their luxury tax rate. That’s the most important part of the Yankees’ business plan right now,” Verducci explains.
“So I can definitely see a scenario where he’s back—I don’t know for how long and how well—but I can see him back on the field this year and gone next year.”