Column: If A-Rod put half as much into playing as suing, he'd be fine
If a good defense is indeed a good offense, then Alex Rodriguez and his high priced team of lawyers have the playbook memorized.
On Thursday A-Rod filed a lawsuit against MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig claiming they have attempted to destroy his reputation and career. The legal basis for the lawsuit is called "tortious interference," which in this case means the defendants interfered with A-Rod's ability to perform his contract with the Yankees, action which may prevent him from collecting the $116 million remaining on the contract.
The suit was filed on the fourth day of an arbitration hearing to determine if the 211-game suspension A-Rod received for his various roles in the Biogenesis case - alleged by MLB to include the use of performance enhancing drugs, the attempted destruction of evidence, and the recruitment of additional players as clients of the South Florida anti-aging clinic - should be reduced or overturned. Thirteen of the 14 players who were suspended by MLB accepted their fate without an appeal.
Under baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement and the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) between the owners and the players, testimony in the arbitration hearing is supposed to be confidential. That means A-Rod can't really take to the airwaves and voice his complaints concerning the manner in which MLB collected its evidence against him. But unlike arbitration hearings, court proceedings are considered public and the allegations in a lawsuit are available to everyone. Hence, A-Rod and his band of hired guns are attacking MLB publicly in an effort to both air their grievances and garner support for their position that MLB has a vendetta against "one of the most talented baseball players of all time," one of the many allegations contained in the complaint.
But on that point the lawyers are correct. A-Rod's on-field accomplishments certainly rank him among the top players in MLB history, although how much of that was based on pure talent and how much on illegal assistance will never be known. This much we do know. All of A-Rod's problems can be attributed to one individual: Himself. He can blame MLB and Selig forever, but A-Rod and A-Rod alone is responsible for the effect that PEDs has had and will continue to have on the remainder of his career, such as it may be, as well as his legacy.
A-Rod's offensive isn't limited to MLB and Selig. In a continuation of his scorched earth policy, after filing the lawsuit against baseball A-Rod filed a second lawsuit, this one against the Yankees, their team physician and a hospital for misdiagnosing his medical condition and mishandling his treatment of a hip injury last year. A-Rod claims that the defendants jeopardized his career by allowing him to continue playing when he should have been undergoing treatment. Ultimately, A-Rod underwent hip surgery in January and didn't return to the Yankees' lineup until August.
Don't be surprised if team A-Rod has more lawsuits up its sleeve. One of his attorneys sent a letter to the Players' Association in August claiming the union had prejudiced his case against MLB when Executive Director Michael Weiner stated publicly that he had advised A-Rod to accept his fate and waive an appeal if MLB offered him a suspension more in line with those imposed on other Biogenesis players. Weiner's comments suggest there was never a doubt about A-Rod's guilt or innocence, but rather the extent of the punishment imposed for violating the JDA. A lawsuit against the MLBPA, particularly if A-Rod loses his appeal, shouldn't surprise anyone.
As long as A-Rod keeps paying his legal team, there are other potential lawsuits out there that could be pursued, including one against Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster. Dempster hit A-Rod on the elbow with a pitch - on his fourth try - during a game in Fenway Park on August 18, shortly after A-Rod filed the appeal of his suspension. While Dempster's actions were representative of the feelings many players have towards A-Rod, it was nonetheless a cheap shot, one that could have affected A-Rod's career.
But regardless of how many lawsuits A-Rod files, they won't be able to mask one undeniable fact: If his offense on the field was as good as it is off, the Yankees wouldn't be sitting home watching this year's playoffs.
Jordan Kobritz is a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner. He is a Professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network and maintains the blog http://sportsbeyondthelines.com. Jordan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.