Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig may be preparing to knock A-Rod out of the park. Selig may also just be using the threat of a lifetime ban to force the New York Yankees' third baseman to the bargaining table.
Citing two unnamed sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reported on Wednesday that Selig was prepared to hit Alex Rodriguez with a lifetime suspension as well as suspend eight other players on either Thursday or Friday.
The 38-year-old could avoid a lifetime ban if he were willing to accept a lengthy suspension without appeal, The Associated Press subsequently reported. Citing someone with knowledge of the discussions, Ronald Blum of The AP indicated that MLB arbitrator Fredric Horowitz could also potentially shorten any lifetime ban levied against Rodriguez and that it even remained unclear if Selig would actually issue such a historic punishment.
Any suspension for Rodriguez would cap weeks of media reports indicating that the three-time AL MVP was among the players who would be suspended by MLB for connections to anti-aging clinic Biogenesis. The shuttered clinic in Miami and its founder, Anthony Bosch, are at the center of MLB's latest scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs. In January 2013, the Miami New Times published documents purportedly chronicling the use of performance-enhancing drugs -- including human growth hormone and anabolic steroids -- by several prominent MLB players, including Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon. Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was the first player disciplined by MLB following its investigation into the clinic and Bosch.
Although Rodriguez's camp initially denied any connection to Biogenesis or Bosch, his name appeared 16 times in the records obtained by the Miami New Times. Shortly after Braun's suspension on July 22, Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York reported that "sources familiar with the investigation" said the evidence connecting A-Rod to Biogenesis is "far beyond" what the league had against the Brewers' slugger. Milwaukee had 65 games remaining on its regular-season schedule when Braun was sidelined for the remainder of the 2013 season.
"We're still involved in the process of preparing for an eventual appeal in this matter," Cornwell said Monday on ESPN New York Radio, via The Associated Press. "My understanding is that the next step that is going to be taken is that the players' association and baseball will meet to discuss the investigation and baseball's focus on particular players. So we'll see how that process plays out. But at this point my understanding or my expectation is that we're going to be working through the process towards an appeal."
The intent of Rodriguez's camp to appeal any suspension levied could play a factor in Selig's willingness to consider a lifetime suspension. The New York Daily News reported on Sunday that Rodriguez had been offered a deal that would force him to sit out the remainder of the 2013 season as well as the entire 2014 campaign. Citing an unnamed source described as "familiar with the discussions between MLB officials and A-Rod’s representatives," the Daily News reported that a lifetime ban could be sought if such a deal were not agreed upon.
"He's prepared to roll the dice," an unnamed source described as "close to Rodriguez" told Newsday on Wednesday. "That begs the question, 'Are you rolling the dice because you are innocent or because you are stupid?' I can't imagine he's rolling the dice because he's stupid."
If Selig and MLB are potentially using the threat of a lifetime ban to make a lengthy suspension seem more acceptable then perhaps A-Rod's camp is merely threatening to appeal any punishment in order to ensure that a settlement is offered. Either way, negotiations between the two sides were underway on Wednesday, according to T.J. Quinn of ESPN. Citing an unnamed source familiar with the discussions, Quinn reported that MLB had made Rodriguez aware that it was willing to ban him for life should he fight an lengthy -- but finite -- suspension.
Amid the rampant speculation about his future, Rodriguez is set to participate in a simulated game on Thursday as he continues to work his way back to the Bronx following hip surgery in January. Rodriguez has yet to play for the Yankees in 2013 but could join the team as early as this weekend if he is not suspended, according to MLB.com.
"We have a schedule, but also we're going to be checking the weather and all that stuff, too," Cashman said on Wednesday, via MLB.com. "I'm not going to say where it is at this stage yet. I'll just take it one day at a time."