Arod and Francesa

I don’t have much to add to the latest chapter in the Alex Rodriguez saga. I agree with the nearly consensus opinion that Arod was putting on a ridiculous, over the top show when he stormed out of the hearing on Wednesday, ostensibly in response to the ruling of arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, that Commissioner Bud Selig would not be compelled to testify in the matter of Alex Rodriguez’ 211-game suspension for multiple violations of MLB’s drug policy.

MLB later put out a statement noting that the commissioner has never testified at such a hearing. Had the joint drug agreement collectively bargained by the players and owners mandated that the commissioner testify, the commissioner’s non-appearance would be noteworthy. But there is no such mandate and ESPN legal commentator Lester Munson said categorically yesterday that all of Arod’s attorneys knew with 100% certainty before it started that this case would be no different in that regard. In other words, Arod left the hearing for reasons that quite transparently had nothing to do with whether the commissioner was going to testify. In all likelihood, he left so that *he* would not have to testify and, one might surmise, lie under oath.

I am no lawyer, though I did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night (sorry, I couldn’t resist. I love those commercials). OK, starting again – I am no lawyer, but the repeated insistence from media types over the past twenty four hours that, even if they don’t like Arod, they agree – were the arbitration hearing an appropriate legal setting – that Arod would have a right to face his accuser, is nonsense. This was a line that Arod harped on incessantly in post-storming out interviews. It’s nonsense because Bud Selig is not Alex Rodriguez’ accuser in any legal sense. Biogenesis founder Anthony Bosch is. And Bosch did testify. The more fitting parallel for Bud Selig in this instance is DA. It’s ultimately his call to determine, on behalf of MLB, what kinds of suspensions baseball will push for under existing agreements (whether the length of the Arod suspension violates the constraints on that power as set out in collective bargaining is a separate question).

The DA (think Adam Schiff on Law and Order – or the DAs played by Diane Wiest or Fred Thompson) decides what prosecutions to pursue and what sentences to try to secure. This does not require him or her to testify at the trials themselves. So, no, whether an arbitration hearing is a legal proceeding or not, there is no plausible argument for why the commissioner, who has no direct first hand knowledge of Arod’s alleged infractions, and isn’t supposed to, should appear in such a setting. That MLB has designated Rob Manfred to present its case – in addition to whatever other witnesses are called – strikes me as irrelevant to the integrity of the proceeding.

I am, as I have made clear before, no fan of the commissioner. But this particular line of discussion over the past couple of days has been especially dumb.

On Wednesday, Arod spent 40 minutes talking with Mike Francesa of WFAN in New York. Over 25 years, Francesa has a developed a reputation as one of the more crusty and, typically, skeptical and non-credulous sports talk guys out there. But he has, it seems to me, made a clear business decision over the past few months – he will be the one friendly media haven for Arod. I regard it as a business decision because there is no way that Francesa actually believes Arod. He may, as he has said, think the process is unfair and stacked against the players (though players have generally done pretty well in arbitration hearings against MLB in non-salary disputes. It was through arbitration that Ryan Braun had his 2011 drug suspension overturned). He may believe that the suspension meted out to Arod was too long and violates existing agreements between the players and MLB (it would appear to). He may – quite reasonably in my view – regard it as preposterous that MLB’s actually paid for the testimony of its main witness.

But to listen, as he did, for 40 minutes on Wednesday, while Arod thundered away about how the commissioner doesn’t like New York (huh?), how Alex Rodriguez loves his children more than any parent has ever loved any children in the history of parenting, how he was speaking “from the heart” when he cursed out MLB COO Rob Manfred at the hearing over an arbitrator’s decision that everyone knew was a foregone conclusion and followed all existing precedent in such proceedings – well, I just don’t buy for a second that Francesa took any of that seriously. But there he sat, trying with all his might to get *himself* worked up to a level of faux outrage that could match Arod’s.

And Francesa is certainly getting himself worked up – he told legal analyst Steve Kallas yesterday that “this whole case has been the most ridiculous case in the history of mankind.” I am all for some healthy hyperbole. But – good lord. It might time for Francesa to sit down for a couple of hours with some popcorn and watch The Thin Blue Line (one of the all time great documentaries), or re-familiarize himself with the Central Park jogger case before he renders that verdict.



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