Alex Rodriguez and MLB are in talks to try to find common ground and a fair suspension term for his alleged PED-related offenses while signs point to nine or so accused Biogenesis clients preparing to accept 50-game bans within the next couple days.
A-Rod recently is said to have signaled a willingness to talk to MLB, positive news for baseball's powers, who'd like to avoid an appeal process that could drag the drug story deep into the summer. According to a player-side source, Rodriguez recently inquired as to why he should be singled out, a suggestion that he might be amenable to a 50-game ban like the others are getting, which was at least perceived as a step toward compromise.
About nine 50-game bans are expected to be announced by Sunday, as MLB is determined to keep the penalties contained within this baseball season, which could allow suspended players to return to teams for the postseason if possible. All or almost all of the nine are expected to agree to the 50-game penalty, as the prospect of MLB doubling the penalty to 100 is unappetizing, especially with MLB said to have substantial evidence, much of it in the form of corroborating texts.
A-Rod and MLB are said in some reports to remain far apart, but they can keep talking past the time the other suspensions are announced as it's understood this is a much more complicated case.
Union leaders, speaking generally, have said they have no interest in appealing cases where the evidence is "overwhelming," as the player constituency is decidedly anti-drug now. Naturally, the union will only work toward agreements it sees as fair.
With commissioner Bud Selig holding out the possibility of a lifetime ban but possibly willing to sign off a suspension that lasts through 2014, and Rodriguez seemingly signaling a willingness to discuss things, baseball people appear to be hoping a deal could be struck to avoid a potentially ugly public showdown.
Some are speculating that a penalty of 150 games or so may work as a stiff sentence that may not automatically end A-Rod's career. The number 150 also would be equal to number of games for a player who was hit with two PED penalties (50 plus 100).
Such a 150-game penalty would cost A-Rod about $25 million of the $95 million that remains on his contract through 2017. If he agrees to a ban through '14, he'd lose $34 million.
Should he be suspended through all of '14, it's hard to imagine a return in 2015 at close to 40 on two repaired hips with two full years away from a ball field. But it's also possible MLB could hold out to keep him out through '14.
One player-connected person wondered why Selig should insist on a penalty that kills '14 for A-Rod. "Bud's already won," that person said, referring to Ryan Braun's deal for a 65-game ban.
Signs point to nine or so others as likely to accept 50-game bans, including Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli and minor leaguers Fernando Martinez, Fautino de los Santos, Jordan Norberto and Cesar Puello. There had been reports Cruz, whose ban could hinder Texas' pennant hopes, might appeal, but there's little suggestion that's the case now.
As for the biggest names in the case, there are suggestions Rodriguez's offense as easily worse than Braun's, as there's said to be evidence he used or bought steroids every year since 2009, the year he asked folks to "judge me from this day forward" after emotionally admitting he failed a 2003 MLB survey test for steroids. So there's no chance they'll agree to anything in the range of 50 or 65 games.
There also have been suggestions he may have led other players to the now defunct Miami "wellness" clinic and possibly tried to impede the investigation by attempting to purchase Biogenesis paperwork. It's possible he could try to claim he was merely gathering his own evidence.
With MLB's investigation already a success, there's little reason to risk an appeal. Baseball's star witness Tony Bosch, the former proprietor of Biogenesis, posed as a doctor in prescribing drugs to players, then publicly lied about his role as a drug dealer before MLB dropped its lawsuit against him, then paid him. However, the agreement with Braun boosts Bosch's credibility considerably.
Rodriguez is scheduled to re-start rehab games Friday and Saturday in Trenton, N.J., the Yankees' Double-A team, in what should be a weird circus as he prepares to resume a major-league career career at precisely the time it's likely to be derailed again.