New York Yankees third baseman could be banned through to 2015 season.
Baseball fans were braced to see sweeping sanctions meted out against players who reportedly obtained banned drugs from a Florida clinic, chief among them Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez.
For more than a week, conflicting reports have surfaced over the fate of the Major League Baseball superstar, who has yet to play this season after hip surgery in January was followed by a quadriceps injury.
Rodriguez himself said after a minor league rehab start on Friday that he expected to join the Yankees for the first time this season on Monday if he wasn’t “struck by lightning”.
But that’s just what some reports have predicted will happen to the 38-year-old, three-time American League Most Valuable Player when they suggested MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could ban Rodriguez for life if he is judged to have impeded baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis affair.
Other media reports have indicated Rodriguez is more likely to receive a lengthy, but not lifetime, ban with some saying that he would be banned at least through the end of the 2014 season.
Selig could also invoke his right to protect the best interests of baseball to prevent Rodriguez from playing during any appeal process.
Usually in baseball, players can continue to play while appealing disciplinary action, and Rodriguez has vowed to fight any sanction.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Sunday he tentatively planned to start Rodriguez at third base on Monday. The player was scheduled to fly Sunday night to Chicago and link up with his team-mates.
“I think all of us are curious what’s going to happen, and is Alex going to be a player for us tomorrow, and what’s going to happen with the other guys that are involved in this,” Girardi said.
“Because in my mind I have him penciled in here tomorrow.”
Rodriguez indicated on Friday he believes the attempt to ban him is linked to an attempt to avoid paying all or some of the almost $100 million remaining on his record $275 million contract that runs through 2017.
“I think we all agree that we want to get rid of PEDs — that’s a must,” said Rodriguez, who admitted in 2009 to using steroids while he played for the Texas Rangers from 2001 through 2003, when they were not yet banned under major league rules.
That admission has shadowed his stellar achievements on the field, including a 2009 World Series title with the Yankees and 647 career home runs that put him fifth on Major League Baseball’s all-time career list.
Thus far, none of the players implicated in the game’s latest doping scandal have tested positive under Major League Baseball’s anti-doping test program, toughened in recent years after complaints from US lawmakers.
But anywhere from nine to more than a dozen players are reportedly set to receive suspensions, with MLB already negotiating with all or most of them — except Rodriguez — to accept their punishments and move on.
Some players have already been suspended for their links to the clinic, including Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun, Oakland pitcher Bartolo Colon, and Toronto outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Among others linked to Biogenesis, in evidence first obtained by Miami New Times newspaper, are Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz, Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta and San Diego infielder Everth Cabrera.
Cruz said before the Rangers’ game against Oakland on Sunday he hadn’t decided whether he would appeal any ban.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about anything,” he said. “It’s not just about myself, it’s also about the team. I don’t know what will happen, but it’s supposed to happen tomorrow.”
If the suspensions are handed down, it would be the most comprehensive doping ban imposed by the sport.
Several stars have admitted to doping and such icons as US home run king Barry Bonds and pitching legend Roger Clemens escaped doping charges in court cases but only after their legacies were tainted and the sport took a black eye with fans.