Alex Rodriguez isn't done fighting yet.
Despite having his suspension reduced by independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz from 211 games to 162 games, A-Rod announced that he intends to take his battle against Major League Baseball to federal court. Rodriguez was initially suspended by MLB for 211 games for violations of MLBs drug agreement and labor contract related to his involvement with Biogenesis, a closed anti-aging clinic in Miami accused of supplying players with performance-enhancing drugs. The three-time American League MVP appealed that suspension handed down in August and finished the remainder of the 2013 season with his appeal pending. Following several contentious arbitration sessions that extended from September through November, Horowitz announced on Saturday that he had trimmed the ban by 49 games.
Rodriguez was not satisfied. He was also, apparently, not surprised.
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one," Rodriguez said in his statement. "This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB's first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review.
In his statement, Rodriguez not only claimed that he had not used PEDs as he has been accused in this case but also revealed he intended to take his fight against MLB to 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's statement said. "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. No player should have to go through what I have been dealing with, and I am exhausting all options to ensure not only that I get justice, but that players' contracts and rights are protected through the next round of bargaining, and that the MLB investigation and arbitration process cannot be used against others in the future the way it is currently being used to unjustly punish me."
A statement issued on Saturday by the Major League Baseball Players' Association suggests that Rodriguez will be on his own if he continues to fight the penalty after Horowitz's decision.
"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."
Even without the support of his union, a defiant Rodriguez seems not to be done commenting and litigating as he seeks to have his suspension overturned entirely. According to unnamed sources who spoke with ESPN New York, Rodriguez is even aiming on participating in Spring Training with the Yankees next month.
"I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship," Rodriguez said in his statement. "I want to sincerely thank my family, all of my friends, and of course the fans and many of my fellow MLB players for the incredible support I received throughout this entire ordeal."
While the team would be forced to address his absence at third base, the Yankees would receive some financial relief if Rodriguez is forced to sit out the entire 2014 season. The Yankees would be off the hook for Rodriguez's 2014 base salary of $25 million if he is forced to sit out while suspended, according to Paul Hagen of MLB.com.
"The New York Yankees respect Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, the arbitration process, as well as the decision released today by the arbitration panel," the team said in a statement obtained by MLB.com.
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