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SportsThe Schmuck Stops Here

It's too early to count out New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for 2014

Major League BaseballBaseballAlex RodriguezNew York YankeesCourts and the JudiciaryAmerican League East

If you think, or are hoping, that the 162-game suspension imposed on New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez has brought an end to the Biogenesis saga or A-Rod’s controvery-laced career, think again.

The ruling by arbitrator Frederic Horowitz, which reduced the original suspension that Major League Baseball handed down to Rodriguez from 211 games to 162, may stand up to a federal court challenge by Rodriguez and his small army of attorneys, but you can bet that we’ll still be wondering next month whether he’ll be allowed to start the 2014 season.

Based on the comments coming out of his camp, he fully intends to seek an injunction that could postpone the start of the suspension, which could make it possible for him to start the season while the issue is being adjudicated.

That would be bad news for the Yankees, who are set to gain some serious payroll relief if Rodriguez misses the entire season. They would not have to pay about $24 million of the $86 million they still owe him under the terms of the ridiculous $275 million contract he signed before the 2008 season, which would have a significant impact on their payroll and luxury-tax situation.

It would not be particularly bad news for the rest of the American League East, since Rodriguez clearly isn’t the player he was before injuries and scandal turned him into a huge liability.

He certainly seems committed to taking this to the limit, and why not? He really has nothing to lose, since a one-year suspension might be the death knell for his career. His reputation has been sullied so much that there’s probably no real benefit in making some kind of high-road proclamation of regret and accepting his punishment.

Though it will be bad for baseball and the Yankees, a long court battle might be his only chance to preserve any semblance of a legacy.

The whole situation is a sad commentary on both A-Rod and MLB. He was a wonderful player in his prime and almost certainly would have gone on to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if he had resisted the temptation to use steroids over a three-year period in the early 2000s. He admitted to that offense, but has maintained throughout the Biogenesis scandal that he has not violated baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

Challenging the labor agreement in federal court will be an uphill battle, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a judge will put the suspension on hold and examine the way MLB obtained its evidence against Rodriguez. That likely would not be a speedy process.

In fact, it would be very much in A-Rod’s interest to stretch the legal proceedings out as long as possible, since the Yankees likely would have to keep paying him until the issue is settled.

Either way, it’s fair for fans to wonder whether baseball’s steroid scourge will ever end.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

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