Alex Rodriguez Reuters

What does Alex Rodriguez’s future have in store?


Let’s get one thing out of the way at the outset: whatever results from the Biogenesis news, be it a lengthy suspension or otherwise, this will not “forever taint Alex Rodriguez’s legacy” or whatever words anyone chooses to author to that melodramatic effect. Alex Rodriguez’s legacy was toast years ago, rightly or wrongly.

A-Rod was transformed from a supremely-talented All-Star into a greedy mercenary when he signed his first $250 million contract with the Texas Rangers before the 2001 season and had that image solidified when he opted out of it while with the Yankees and signed another huge deal in December 2007.

He was branded a steroid cheat and effectively denied his rightful ticket to the Hall of Fame when word surfaced of his past performance enhancing drug use in early 2009 and that stain has never gone away in the public eye.

Beyond that, he has been portrayed in the media — not necessarily without reason — as a vain, image-conscious but self-consciousness-impaired prima donna for well over a decade now and has been judged as something less than a professional or a fierce competitor due to past playoff failures (never mind that he carried the Yankees on his back to the 2009 World Series title) and because he is not Derek Jeter (never mind that not even Derek Jeter is the Derek Jeter the media and his adoring fans have constructed).

So no, this is not a fall from grace. This is not a hero brought to his knees. If you hear someone talking about A-Rod and Biogenesis and they offer any sentiment suggesting that this, after all that has come before, is the final straw, you may feel free to ignore this person because they have no idea what they are talking about. A-Rod has been a widely hated and hated-on figure for far longer than he was ever considered, first and foremost, a baseball superstar and this is merely another brick in that very tall, very long and very solid wall. It’s not totally fair that he’s been made the pariah that he is, but he is a pariah among all but the most forgiving fans, no question.

So what CAN the Biogenesis scandal do to Alex Rodriguez?

It can suspend him for 50 games. One hundred games if the investigation finds out he used PEDs and lied about it. But it cannot, and I believe should not, end his career, either in its entirety or as a New York Yankee.

Alex Rodriguez is under contract with the New York Yankees through 2017 . Including this season he’s owed approximately $114 million. While the Yankees would love to be out from under than contract somehow — because, really, it’s a horrible contract — there is no mechanism for them to void it regardless of what comes out of the Biogenesis investigation. The Joint Drug Agreement provides no means to do so. Player contracts have no terms which allow for contracts being voided due to PEDs for they incorporate the Joint Drug Agreement by reference. Given that we are now nearly six years out from when the deal was signed, it would strain credulity for the Yankees to claim that there was any fraud or misrepresentation that forced them into the deal.  It’s just not going anywhere, regardless of what the Yankees front office may say off the record to the media.

At the same time, there is zero incentive for Alex Rodriguez to retire or walk away from the game. While he is coming off major surgery and while it is unclear whether he will ever be anything close to the player he once was, it is premature to say that Rodriguez will never play again for physical reasons. But even if he can’t play — even if his hip is toast, he can’t run, field or even lift a bat — the Yankees are still on the hook for that $114 million. All A-Rod would need to do is to comply with whatever rehabilitation or medical regimen the Yankees asked him to do and the checks would keep on coming. There is considerable precedent for this happening in baseball history, with Albert Belle being perhaps the most notable example. Belle signed a five-year contract with the Orioles in 1998, but due to a degenerative hip condition did not play for the final three of those five years. He was kept on the disabled list by the Orioles, fully paid, the entire time. Why? Because teams assume the financial risk of injury to a player, not the player.

But the thing is, Alex Rodriguez does appear to be able to play baseball. He has been rehabbing at the Yankees complex in Tampa for weeks now, taking ground balls, running, hitting balls off a tee and getting back into baseball shape. Just today Yankees manager Joe Girardi had this to say about his third baseman:

“My focus is not on what MLB is investigating and all of that. And I don’t want to get caught up in that just because, in a sense, they’re going to handle it. I’ll let them handle it. I’ll continue to assist our players in getting ready anyway they can.

“But he’s in Tampa getting ready and that’s what we want him to do.”

He hasn’t commented on the latest reports.  Given the state of Rodriguez’s rehab, the Yankees need for his bat back in the lineup and given the potentially lengthy timeline for any discipline if he is found culpable, I think it’s far more likely that we’ll see Alex Rodriguez playing major league baseball games this season than we’ll see him cast out of the game on either a temporary or permanent basis.

The Days of Chief Wahoo are numbered

Fox Entertainment

One of the more common responses to what I’ve posted about Chief Wahoo lately is “it’s just a cartoon character! Nobody cares!”

Well, looking at that guy in the photo above and many others dressed like him at Progressive Field the past two days is evidence that it is not just a cartoon character. A certain swath of Indians fans think that, because of their team’s name and mascot, it’s totally acceptable to show up in public looking like this. Wahoo as an official trademark of a Major League Baseball club gives people license to dress up in redface — or in this case, red and blackface — with headdresses on, turning a real people and a real culture into a degrading caricature. It’s not just a cartoon character by a long shot. To many it’s a get-out-being-called-a-racist-free card.

As for “nobody cares,” well, yes, someone does. Go read this from Sterling HolyWhiteMountain over at ESPN, talking about both Chief Wahoo as a symbol and America’s treatment and conception of Native Americans as a whole. It’s moving stuff that puts lie to the idea that “nobody cares.” It likewise puts lie to the false choice so many Chief Wahoo defenders reference in which they argue that people should care more about actual injustices visited upon Native Americans and not mascots. One can and should care about those injustices. And one can do that while simultaneously finding Chief Wahoo to be an odious symbol that serves to dehumanize people. Once people are dehumanized, it’s far easier to treat them as something less-than-human, of course.

But it’s not just Native Americans or anti-Wahoo folks like me who care. While I have been critical of Major League Baseball for not taking its own stand against Wahoo publicly, it seems pretty clear at this point that the league is weary of Wahoo and is looking to pressure the Indians to eliminate it. Last night, at the Hank Aaron Award ceremony, Manfred spoke more expansively about Wahoo than he did the day before. Manfred is a lawyer and he does not choose his words carelessly. Read this and parse it carefully:

“I know that that particular logo is offensive to some people, and all of us at Major League Baseball understand why. Logos are, however, primarily a local matter. The local club makes decisions about its logos. Fans get attached to logos. They become part of a team’s history. So it’s not easy as coming to the conclusion and realizing that the logo is offensive to some segment.

“I’ve talked to Mr. [Indians owner and CEO Paul] Dolan about this issue. We’ve agreed away from the World Series at an appropriate time we will have a conversation about this. I want to understand fully what his view is, and we’ll go from there. At this point in this context, I’m just not prepared to say more.”

Yes, he’s still trying to be diplomatic, but note how he (a) acknowledges that Wahoo is offensive to some people; (b) that “all of us at Major League Baseball understand why” and (c) does not validate the views of those who do not find it offensive. He acknowledges that they feel that way due to history, but he does not say, as I inferred from his previous comments the day before, that both sides have merit. Indeed, he says he’d like to hear Paul Dolan’s side, suggesting that while he’ll listen to argument, he doesn’t buy the argument as it has yet to be put.

I still wish that MLB would come out hard and strong against Wahoo publicly, but the more I listen to Manfred on this and read between the lines, the more I suspect that Major League Baseball is finally fed up with Wahoo and that it wants to do something to get rid of it. That it’s not just the hobby horse of pinko liberals like me. I believe Manfred realizes that, in 2016, Chief Wahoo is an embarrassment to an organization like Major League Baseball. Maybe, because of p.r. and political considerations, he doesn’t want to stand on a soapbox about it at the World Series, but I believe he wants to put an end to it all the same.

You can call me names for being against Wahoo all you want. But you can’t say it’s a non-issue. You can’t say that it’s just a cartoon character and you can’t say that nobody cares. To do that is an exercise in denial. I have come to believe that Major League Baseball cares and that it’s going to push hard to make the 2016 World Series the last time it is embarrassed by anachronistic racism on its biggest stage ever again.

Game 2 is going to be the poster child for pace of play arguments this winter

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Zach McAllister #34 of the Cleveland Indians is relieved by manager Terry Francona during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Getty Images

In August, it was reported that Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred would like to implement pitch clocks, like those in use in the minor leagues for the past two seasons, to improve the pace-of-play at the major league level. You can bet that last night’s Game 2 will be the lead argument he uses against those who would oppose the move.

The game was moved up an hour in order to get it in before an impending storm. By the time the rain finally started falling the game had been going on for three hours and thirty-three minutes. It should’ve been over before the first drop fell, but in all it lasted four hours and four minutes. It ended in, thankfully, only a light rain. The longest nine-inning game in postseason history happened a mere two weeks ago, when the Dodgers and Nationals played for four hours and thirty two minutes. There thirteen pitchers were used. Last night ten pitchers were used. Either way, the postseason games are dragging on even for those of us who don’t mind devoting four+ hours of our night to baseball. It is likely putting off more casual fans just tuning in for the Fall Classic.

It’s not all just dawdling, however. Yes, the pitchers worked slowly and a lot of pitching changes took place, but strikeouts, walks and the lack of balls in play contribute to longer games as well. We saw this both last night and in Game 1, which was no brisk affair despite each starting pitcher looking sharp and not working terribly slowly. Twenty-four strikeouts on Tuesday night had a lot to do with that. Last night featured 20 strikeouts and thirteen — thirteen! — walks. It’s not just that the games are taking forever; the very thing causing them to drag feature baseball’s least-kinetic forms of excitement.

But no matter what the cause for the slower play was — and here it was a combination of laboring pitchers, the lack of balls in play and, of course, the longer commercial breaks in the World Series — Manfred is likely to hold Game 2 up as Exhibit A in his efforts to push through some rules changes to improve game pace and game time. So far, the centerpiece of those efforts is the pitch clock, which has proven to be successful and pretty non-controversial in the minor leagues. It would not surprise me one bit if, at this year’s Winter Meetings in Washington, a rule change in that regard is widely discussed.