Today an arbitrator ruled that Alex Rodriguez will have his 211 game suspension issued by Major League Baseball for violation of their drug prevention and treatment Program reduced to 162, the entire 2014 season.
Once the news of this story broke Twitter and Facebook was alive with rumors that the All-Star Third Baseman could possibly be joining the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League for the 2014 season. The Ducks have previously signed such players as Bill Hall, Dontrelle Willis, and John Rocker to contracts.
Ducks president and general manager Mike Pfaff sent an email to Newsday reporter Mark Herrmann stating his interest in Rodriguez.
"While some MLB suspensions have been honored by the Atlantic League in the past, if Alex Rodriguez were unable to participate in the major leagues this season, we would be open to exploring giving him a chance to play, stay sharp and compete against a high level of competition while helping the Ducks chase a third consecutive championship."
Let me start off by stating the obvious. Alex Rodriguez is under contract with the New York Yankees. I don't see any way the Yankees or Major League Baseball will allow him to play in another league while suspended. I also don't see the Yankees releasing him. The only way I could conceivably see this happening is if Rodriguez's legal team were able to have a arbitrator rule he can continue to play baseball just not for affiliated minor league and major league team, opening up the door for independent league teams.
This would be great for independent league teams. However, having talked to players and personal around the independent leagues recently, we were unable to find an instance where a player who was suspended under the Minor and Major League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program was allowed to play for an independent league team and serve out their suspension.
Independent leagues such as the Atlantic League serve as their own entity and are not required to follow Major League Baseball rules. However, they do work in partnership with Major League Baseball by selling players contracts to major league clubs as part of their business.
In 2010, Ben Harrison was suspended under the policy by Minor League Baseball while playing in Texas Rangers organization. Harrison was eventually released by the Rangers, and signed with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. Harrision served as a bullpen catcher and took took batting practice with the team while he served out his suspension. He was eventually reinstated by the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball and allowed to resume his career.
If Rodriguez were to become available to play but still be under suspension by Major League Baseball, teams and leagues may be burning bridges with major league baseball by signing him. It's obvious major league baseball wants to make an example out of Rodriguez.
If the Ducks were ever able to sign Rodriguez he would definitely fill seats for a team that has seen attendance decline over the last few seasons. In 2012 they averaged 5,551 per game to 5,303 in 2013.
Last season the Ducks were the talk independent baseball after signing former major league All-Star and future Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero to a contact. However, Guerrero never showed up and the signing was seen as a public relations stunt to bolster attendance by many of the fans. Guerrero wasn't needed on the field as the Ducks went on to win their consecutive Atlantic League championship.
Fans may view this email about Rodriguez as a publicity stunt, but is there anything wrong with
that? I don't think so. It's a way to keep people thinking and talking about baseball in the offseason, especially the Ducks. It has done both...it's good marketing.
I've had a couple conversations with Ducks President and General Manager about player signings and he takes it very seriously to protect the best interest of the player and the team. He understands the business of building a team and winning. I think his email was an invitation for Alex to workout with the team and help the team, as well as keeping himself in shape for a return to baseball. I don't think we should read much into this.