Something has been bothering me about Alex Rodriguez's potential lifetime ban from baseball, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter just did a nice job of expressing it.
The Yankees rode Rodriguez to a World Series title in 2009, but they could avoid much of the ride down if Commissioner Bud Selig essentially suspends him without pay for the 4 1/3 years left on the $275 million contract that the Steinbrenners and team president Randy Levine gave him after he opted out of his previous deal.
A lifetime suspension could essentially wipe Rodriguez off the Yankees' books, just as if they had found a sucker to take his contract from them.
"If Bud lets them get away with that, they're under the luxury tax," Showalter told USA Today. "If they can reset, they can spend again, and I guarantee you in two years Matt Wieters is in New York."
Selig, his staff and the players union continue to negotiate suspensions from MLB's investigation into the Biogenesis clinic. It appears likely that the rulings will be made Friday, with A-Rod, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz and Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta among the players who will be disciplined, as Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was a week ago.
At issue is whether the players will appeal any suspensions. The Rangers reportedly would like Cruz to appeal, as that could keep him on the field throughout the team's fight to make the playoffs. Peralta seems unlikely to appeal as Detroit acquired his replacement, Jose Iglesias, from the Red Sox on Monday night.
Peralta and others on the list of about 10 players, including Padres All-Star shortstop Everth Cabrera, are probably hoping for 50-game suspensions that begin immediately. That would get Peralta back in time for the playoffs.
While Braun, Peralta, Cruz and Cabrera are being punished for what are known as non-analytical positives — that is, proof of performance-enhancing drug use without a positive test — Rodriguez is in for much harsher treatment. MLB believes it has witnesses and records to show that he was a serial user of banned substances and continued to use long after saying publicly and telling MLB that his positive test in 2003 was a one-time mistake, and even worse has found that he interfered with the investigation, attempting to bribe witnesses and purchase incriminating documents.
That's what has Selig pondering a lifetime ban if Rodriguez chooses to appeal or fight the ruling in court. Many think he could be suspended through the 2014 season, essentially 217 games, if he signs off on the findings Friday.
Attorney David Cornwell, who helped Braun successfully appeal his positive test during the 2011 playoffs, is representing Rodriguez. He has said A-Rod will fight MLB.
With a ban through 2014, Rodriguez would still have a contract for three more seasons, through 2017, when he would be 42. He could attempt to play for the Yankees in 2015, and if he were to be released or declared too injured to play (a real possibility given his degenerative hip issue), he would receive about $60 million as a severance package.
The Yankees would love to see Rodriguez simply disappear. He's earned an average of $27.5 million during his contract, and that money would be freed up for attractive free agents such as Wieters, the Orioles' catcher.
Showalter says the Yankees should not get salary relief because they signed a cheater.
"They're the ones who signed him to that contract," Showalter said.
He stopped there, but he could have added that they knew quite well who they were dealing with.
A lifetime ban would be heavy-handed — too heavy-handed, in my opinion. It would also be convenient for the Yankees — too convenient, in my opinion.