A-Rod sues MLB, claiming "witch hunt" to drive him out of baseball

Enough of the second-tier news stories about foreign policy and budget impasses. Let’s get to the real news about the evils of this world … major sports leagues conducting witch hunts to get its most bankable stars out of the game.  Er … what?  That’s what Alex Rodriguez claims in a new lawsuit filed after receiving the longest suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs:

Faced with baseball’s longest doping suspension, Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball late Thursday, accusing it of buying the cooperation of Anthony Bosch, the head of an anti-aging clinic at the center of a doping scandal, as part of a continuing “witch hunt” to force him out of the sport.

In the complaint, Rodriguez’s lawyers claim an investigator paid $150,000 in cash for records related to Rodriguez, which were apparently stolen. A portion of the cash “was handed off in a bag at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area restaurant,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit specifically accuses Major League Baseball of engaging in “tortious interference,” essentially interfering with Rodriguez’s existing contracts and future business relationships.

The suit, in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, came just days after Rodriguez’s lawyers began appealing the 211-game ban issued by Major League Baseball. It is unclear if the suit will affect the arbitration hearing, which is taking place behind closed doors.

ESPN reported on a statement from A-Rod himself, which sounds something like The Godfather‘s “It’s not personal, just business”:

“The entire legal dynamic is very complex, and my legal team is doing what they need to in order to vindicate me and pursue all of my rights,” A-Rod said through his spokesman, Ron Berkowitz. “This matter is entirely separate from the ongoing arbitration proceedings continuing, and for the day to come when I can share my story with the public and my supporters.”

It’s “entirely separate” from his arbitration effort? His legal team just accused MLB of suborning theft in getting Rodriguez’ records.  It also seems to implicitly acknowledge that the documents used in determining whether Rodriguez violated league rules by using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are legitimate.  How can that be “entirely separate” from the negotiations over the suspension resulting from those actions?

The complaint alleges that Bud Selig engaged in “vigilante justice” in order to “to gloss over Commissioner Selig’s past inaction and tacit approval of the use of performance enhancing substances (“PES”) in baseball (not to mention his multiple acts of collusion), and in an attempt to secure his legacy as the “savior” of America’s pastime.” It also claims that MLB has paid millions of dollars to get rid of him:

From the start of their investigation, Defendants have engaged in vigilante justice. They have ignored the procedures set forth in baseball’s collectively-bargained labor agreements; violated the strict confidentiality imposed by these agreements; paid individuals millions of dollars and made promises of future employment to individuals in order to get them to produce documents and to testify on MLB’ s behalf; bullied and intimidated those individuals who refused to cooperate with their witch hunt; and singled out Plaintiff for an unprecedented 211-game suspension-the longest non-permanent ban in baseball history. Moreover, when Plaintiff sought to defend himself against Defendants’ scorched earth investigation, Defendants falsely accused Plaintiff of interfering with their investigation by attempting to tamper with witnesses and evidence, and increased the length of his ban based on such spurious allegations.

Without a doubt, MLB has embarrassed itself on the issue of PEDs. Several of its stars testified before Congress, which somehow made this a priority over such things as budget reform and border security in order to deliver the modern equivalent of a public beating — and walk them into perjury traps.  That all took place several years ago, though, and none of those players put butts in the seats now.

That’s not true of A-Rod, though.  He had been one of the most popular players in the game, someone whose good looks and media savvy brought plenty of positive attention to baseball.  Why would MLB go way out of its way to spend millions of dollars to ruin one of their best ambassadors? As bad a commissioner as Selig has been, I find it very difficult to believe that he’d spend that kind of owner cash on the kind of crusade alleged in this complaint.

On the other hand, it is Major League Baseball, and one can never overestimate its ability to kill the golden goose, as we discovered in 1994.  The discovery process in this lawsuit should be … intriguing, anyway.

Addendum: One interesting note — the complaint does not make the allegation that the Yankees were involved, even though they may save $86 million if MLB voids A-Rod’s contract. Now that might be a real motive, and it’s at least notable that Rodriguez isn’t making that allegation. At least, not yet.