A-Rod won't be back any time soon but he will be eligible to return to the field a bit earlier than Major League Baseball intended.
Independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz notified Alex Rodriguez, MLB and the players' union on Saturday that he had reduced the three-time American League MVP's suspension from 211 games to 162. Such a ban will sideline Rodriguez for the entire 2014 regular season for violations of MLBs drug agreement and labor contract. Horowitz's ruling will also keep Rodriguez from participating in the 2014 postseason should the New York Yankees qualify. MLB's independent arbitrator since June 2012, Horowitz heard A-Rod's case over several contentious sessions that began during the 2013 season.
"For more than five decades, the arbitration process under the Basic Agreement has been a fair and effective mechanism for resolving disputes and protecting player rights," MLB said in a statement, via MLB.com. "While we believe the original 211-game suspension was appropriate, we respect the decision rendered by the Panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game."
Rodriguez had been hit with the historic 211-game ban in August for his involvement with Biogenesis, a closed anti-aging clinic in Miami accused of dispensing performance-enhancing drugs to several players. The 38-year-old third baseman was among more than a dozen players disciplined in the Biogenesis scandal but the only one still fighting his ban. In a statement released on Saturday, Rodriguez denied using performance-enhancing drugs and vowed to continue fighting his suspension in federal court.
“I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court," Rodriguez said in a statement released to the New York Daily News. "I am confident that when a Federal Judge reviews the entirety of the record, the hearsay testimony of a criminal whose own records demonstrate that he dealt drugs to minors, and the lack of credible evidence put forth by MLB, that the judge will find that the panel blatantly disregarded the law and facts, and will overturn the suspension.”
The Major League Baseball Players Association also released a statement following the announcement of the arbitration decision. While the MLBPA disagreed with the result of the arbitration process, its statement implied it would not be helping Rodriguez pursue the matter in federal court.
"The MLBPA strongly disagrees with the award issued today in the grievance of Alex Rodriguez, even despite the arbitration panel's decision to reduce the duration of Mr. Rodriguez's unprecedented 211-game suspension," the MLB PA said in a statement released to MLB.com. "We recognize that a final and binding decision has been reached, however, and we respect the collectively bargained arbitration process which led to the decision. In accordance with the confidentiality provisions of the JDA, the Association will make no further comment regarding the decision."