The old lawyers’ adage goes: “When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the law is on your side, argue the law. And when you don’t have either on your side, pound the table.”
In the end, that's where Alex Rodriguez and his lawyers, public relations masterminds and assorted flacks found themselves after presenting their case before an arbitrator. This time, there was nothing Rodriguez and his team could do to stop the truth from prevailing except pound the table.
Fredric Horowitz, who reviewed stacks of evidence, saw Rodriguez as a player who built a baseball career around illegal drug use. He wasn’t a victim of a conspiracy -- although his associates have tried to portray him as such -- but of stupidity.
Rodriguez's plan didn’t work because regardless of the defense he offered, he wasn’t believable.
In what has been a terrible year for baseball and drug scandals, Horowitz hit Rodriguez the hardest. Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 162-game regular season, plus any post-season play. Horowitz's ruling technically reduced the 211-game suspension handed down against Rodriguez last year.
In some ways, it's worse than that. Rodriguez - whose legal team has since sued Major League Baseball and its players’ union to challenge the arbitrator's ruling - is probably done with a game that has been his love and passion.
True, he could come back in 2015 following the suspension. But he played only 44 games last summer and hit just .244 during a season in which he was beset with a hip injury. No one can out-run Father Time.
Looking ahead, the odds don’t look favorable for him earning a spot in Baseball’s Hall of Fame, either. It’s also unlikely he’ll ever land in another team’s dugout as a coach or manager. Who would want that scrutiny? Who would want him advising young players about how to approach the game?
No one should feel sorry for Rodriguez. He brought a mountain of humiliation on himself, whether he admits that or not.
An acknowledged steroid user in his days with the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez professed to be a changed man when he came to the Yankees. Maybe it was the pressure to succeed in New York or perhaps trying to survive the grind of a long season, but he turned to illegal substances – drugs, lozenges and injections – to help him perform at a peak level.
It also enabled him to earn a salary unequaled in the history of professional baseball. One calculation had him earning $17,000 per inning. Given his contract with the Yankees that runs through 2017, he’s owed another $60 million or so.
Money might buy all the luxuries life offers, but there’s not much he can do to save his reputation. The “60 Minutes” interview with Anthony Bosch, founder of a South Florida anti-aging clinic named Biogeneis, took care of that. Bosch described in detail a plan to deliver banned substances to Rodriguez. It was an ugly, sleazy partnership.
So one-sided was the arbitrator's ruling that even Rodriquez’s own union had good words for the process. “We respect the collectively-bargaining process that led to the decision,” the players' association said in a prepared statement.
One can only hope this ruling – and those given to other players last summer – leads to a day when illegal substances are no longer part of the game. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but players who break rules not only expose themselves to public ridicule, they further damage a game they profess to love.
The message of the Rodriguez ruling is that drug use is cheating and won’t be accepted in professional baseball. Hopefully those with the ability to hit, run and throw will understand its significance. If they don’t, they will find themselves pushed out of a game that made them rich and famous.
Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at email@example.com.