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A-Rod Prepares To Battle For His Career, Reputation


Both the boo-birds and smartphone cameras were working overtime at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field last night as the New York Yankee's Alex Rodriguez came to bat.


BLOCK: Just hours before, Major League Baseball hammered Rodriguez with a 211-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs. It's the longest non-lifetime ban in baseball history. Rodriguez is appealing the suspension and that's why he's allowed to play for now. So while he deals with fan venom on the field, off the field the 38-year-old slugger is preparing for the battle of his life for what's left of his career and good name.

Sports lawyer Michael McCann joins me to talk about what happens next. He directs the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law.

Michael McCann, welcome to the program.

MICHAEL MCCANN: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: So, A-Rod in play until an arbitrator rules on this appeal, right? Who is the arbitrator in this case?

MCCANN: So the arbitrator is Frederic Horowitz, who's a California-based arbitrator. He is also an attorney. He is highly regarded. In all likelihood, the arbitration hearing will take place sometime in September. And then Mr. Horowitz would have some time to make a decision. But it's unlikely that this will be resolved before the end of the season.

BLOCK: So you have Major League Baseball on one side. You have Rodriguez and his legal team on the other. And then also, I gather, the players union, right, taking his side as well? What's their role here?

MCCANN: Yeah, the players union has an interesting role in this. On one hand, they have a fiduciary duty to look out for the interest of Rodriguez and also for other players. And I think it's important to stress that this isn't just about Alex Rodriguez. It's about the ability of baseball to suspend someone 211 games without the player testing positive for drugs.

The players association will have some concern because they want to make sure there isn't a precedent, whereby the league does this other players. So they will take a vocal role in not seeing that happen.

BLOCK: Well, what's A-Rod's best argument, do you think, as he tries to fight the suspension?

MCCANN: In my view, A-Rod's best argument is to say: There is nowhere in the CBA, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, or in the joint drug-testing program that authorizes a 211-game suspension. So he is going to argue, in essence, where are you getting this from. And that's a strong argument because he may not be able to get the suspension overruled, but he probably has a good shot at getting it reduced.

BLOCK: Would you imagine he would also go after the evidence itself, whatever baseball has from this clinic in Florida?

MCCANN: Yeah, Rodriguez is going to go hard after this evidence. He's going to say, look, you are basing much of the evidence against me on the testimony of someone who, a few months ago, you sued - Tony Bosch, the director of Biogenesis, the clinic in Miami - and in the lawsuit you portrayed him kind of like a drug dealer. And now you're saying he's a credible source of information, now he's believable, and you're going to use what he's saying against me.

Now, baseball has implied that they have other evidence beyond what Tony Bosch has said, but he will now be a key point in Rodriguez's defense.

BLOCK: But does it work against A-Rod then that the other 12 players agreed to their own suspensions for 50 games? In other words, they apparently accepted the evidence against them.

MCCANN: Yeah, it's a very good point because if Tony Bosch and the other evidence that baseball has is not credible, why would 12 out of these 13 players - and 13th being Rodriguez - agree to these penalties? Why would he make up things about Rodriguez but not about the other players?

BLOCK: Michael, how ugly do you think this might get?

MCCANN: It's interesting. On one level, it shouldn't get ugly because arbitration is supposed to be private. There isn't supposed to be disclosures and leaks. And yet, over the last 10 days, we have seen plenty of leaks; which to me suggests that it will get ugly.

BLOCK: How much of this whole proceeding do you think is colored by the fact that A-Rod is so widely reviled? This is just a player who nobody seems to like.

MCCANN: And it's possible that baseball has used that to its advantage, where this is a player who, fairly or unfairly, is one of the least popular players in baseball. He is often considered to have rubbed people the wrong way. While that doesn't necessarily mean he should deserve a harsher penalty because he's not likable, there isn't a great incentive on the part of current players to fight on his behalf.

But you could say, you know, these players should be thinking about Alex Rodriguez. After all, his record-breaking contracts increased the market value for other players. He probably made millions or tens of millions of dollars for other players just because he was paid so much.

BLOCK: Michael McCann, thanks so much.

MCCANN: Thank you for having me.

BLOCK: Michael McCann directs the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.