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Teams should pay penalty for harbor-ing steroid users

Posted: July 25, 2013 - 12:09am

Now that Ryan Braun has plea-bargained his way down to a 65-game suspension from the 100-game benching that Major League Baseball was reportedly going after, the attention has shifted to the fate of Alex Rodriguez in the latest episode of “Miami Vice.”

In various pockets of the baseball interest across the country, there might be more meaning in what happens to Everth Cabrera or Cesar Puello, or any of the two dozen other players who apparently used the Miami-based Biogenesis anti-aging clinic for their one-stop performance-enhancing-drug shopping. But for name value alone, nothing on the way will compare to the attention that accompanies baseball’s imminent attempt to A-Rid itself of A-Rod.

Rodriguez says he intends to fight any suspension and fight it hard. He already showed how he intends to play this thing when it became public that Rodriguez, or his people, allegedly tried to buy the incriminating records from clinic founder Tony Bosch before investigators could get hold of them. If baseball were a legal body and not just a company trying to discipline drug-using employees, that’s the kind of thing that, if proved, is called “obstruction of justice.” People don’t get just suspended for that. They get put in jail.

So, Rodriguez is prepared to play hardball off the field even if he isn’t capable of playing it on the field any longer. He still has $114 million to collect on his contract with the Yankees and, according to sources reportedly close to him, that is his motivation. What exactly he will be able to buy with that $114 million that he cannot buy with the approximately $350 million he has already made in baseball is a reasonable question, but maybe Rodriguez thinks he can clear his name in the process, or maybe thinking isn’t really his long suit.

In any case, baseball doesn’t seem destined to get the relatively clean outcome that it got with its handling of Ryan Braun, who eventually admitted his guilt and agreed not to contest the suspension. As a reward, he got 65 games instead of 100, and baseball would like to see that basic template applied to the rest of the Biogenesis geniuses. Say you did it. Say you’re sorry. Say baseball is right. Disappear for a while.

Braun also fought and lied until it became obvious that he was caught, and perhaps that will eventually happen with Rodriguez as well. Maybe A-Rod is just stonewalling to get the best deal possible. Meanwhile, the Yankees are waiting and watching with more than casual interest. If Rodriguez is suspended for life — and apparently the depth of evidence against him could justify that — that would be $114 million in the bank for the Yankees.

It is a very complicated financial situation right now, because Rodriguez is on the disabled list and not on the active roster. It has been speculated — by no less than celebritynetworth.com — that if Rodriguez is activated for just one game, he could retire after that game, be eligible to collect all his money, and not be subject to a suspension because, well, he’s retired.

Maybe that’s why Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was so pleased when A-Rod tweeted last month that he had been cleared to play by doctors. “Alex should just shut the (expletive) up,” Cashman said.

Also factored in is the contract insurance that will pay around 80 percent of Rodriguez’s salary, but only if he is unable to play for the entire season. Put those things together and there doesn’t seem to be any way A-Rod is going to be in a Yankees uniform this year, successful rehab or not. And that’s not even taking the possible suspension into account. Which he intends to appeal.

In a way, it is hard to root for a lifetime ban for Rodriguez. Anything that lets the Yankees off the hook for that contract is not holding them accountable for their own stupidity. Signing a 32-year-old to a 10-year, $250 million contract, as the Yankees did after the 2007 season, deserves its own reward.

In fact, justice would be served only if Rodriguez got the lifetime ban and the Yankees were fined $114 million for having such a poor ambassador of the game on their roster.

If baseball chose to penalize the organizations that produce cheaters — and penalize them with fines that make the luxury tax look like cab fare — there would be a lot fewer cheaters. Who better to know the character, habits and training regimen of a baseball player, and to first be aware of oddly improved ability, than the teams that nurture them?

An organization that employs players who bring shame on the game should share in the consequences, even if the sins are of omission and not commission. Just like parents whose kids get into the liquor cabinet when they aren’t watching, there is still plenty of blame to go around.

Getting the players to take responsibility for each other isn’t going to happen. Very few wanted to say anything even after Braun was exposed as such a neon fraud. Can’t break the buddy code. Can’t stand up at the players association meeting and demand real penalties like those found in the World Anti-Doping Agency policy, which calls for a two-year ban for a first offense.

No, make the teams pay. Then things will get serious.

And let’s start with the Yankees. They seem to have plenty of money to toss around.

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