By Adam Reiss
(CNN) — The Yankees didn’t make the playoffs this year for only the second time in 19 seasons, but star third baseman Alex Rodriguez has his own post-season battle to contend with.
On Monday, a high-priced team of attorneys representing Rodriguez will face off against Major League Baseball in a closed-door meeting at the baseball commissioner’s office. They will do their best to fight his 211-game suspension, baseball’s longest doping punishment.
A lot is riding on the decision. Aside from whether or not Rodriguez will continue to play ball, he’s still owed $80 million of his record $275 million contract. Upholding the suspension would mean a significant financial loss for him. Overturning it could be seen as a major defeat for the league.
Much of the decision by independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will hinge on the testimony of league star witness Anthony Bosch, who ran the now defunct Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Miami. Arguments could last as long as five days, with a decision coming soon after.
Rodriguez will say that the league and the Yankees used unethical practices to target him because they felt he was overpaid and he underperformed. The league will lay out a case that Rodriguez took performance-enhancing drugs, including “testosterone and human growth hormone” provided by Bosch.
Rodriguez has assembled a formidable team of lawyers, publicists and investigators who have spent months trying to dig up dirt, poke holes in the case and raise questions about Bosch’s credibility. While the league has said it has significant evidence and documentation of Rodriguez’s drug use, there is still a lot the public doesn’t know and a lot of case evidence that it hasn’t seen.
A spokeswoman for Bosch tells CNN that he is cooperating with the league and is looking forward to testifying at the arbitration hearing.
Rodriguez’s suspension was far longer that the punishment handed down to 13 other players connected to Biogenesis. The others, including stars Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers, accepted their suspensions and didn’t fight the league.
The ordeal is taking its toll on Rodriguez, who told reporters recently, “The last seven months have been a nightmare, probably the worst time of my life for sure.”
Fan reaction is mixed. Jason Reyes says Rodriguez should not be suspended: “I feel like we paid a lot of money for him for 10 years so he could break a lot of records. He’s always the black sheep, and they pick on him too much.”
Dawn McClimand feels otherwise: “Suspend him? I say fire him!”
The stakes are high, with Rodriguez’s career and legacy hanging in the balance.
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