In a conference call Monday, Major League Baseball Players Association executive vice president Michael Weiner suggested that suspended third baseman Alex Rodriguez will almost certainly be allowed to finish this season while the appeals process plays out and spoke at length about the perception that players are strongly in favor of stronger penalties for those who use performance-enhancing substances.
The Yankees third baseman was among 13 players who were suspended Monday, and his 211-game punishment was the harshest based clearly on a more serious series of misdeeds. The remaining players chose not to contest their 50-game penalties.
While Weiner said there was no timetable for arbitrator Fredric Horowitz to hear the arguments and make a ruling, he predicted that this phase of the saga wouldn't be concluded until November or December.
That's not to say Weiner could make such a prediction with absolute certainty. Many of the questions centered on the issue of whether the collectively-bargained Joint Drug Agreement would be modified. Weiner cautioned that while many players have been speaking out in favor of a stricter program, that could be misleading.
"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "There's an executive board meeting the first week in December. You know, we met as a board last November. We discussed this at length. There were some players who were clearly in favor of stronger penalties. There were some who clearly were not.
"Not surprisingly, players who are in favor are more likely to have something to say [now] than players who are against. We're going to see at our meeting. Any [player] can show up. We'll find out where the players are on that question."
Weiner conceded that having 14 players, including the previous 65-game penalty given to Brewers All-Star left fielder Ryan Braun, who were not punished because of a failed drug test (including Braun's prior matter involving a technicality), was a concern.
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
"That's not a good thing," he said. "We have to talk about how we can deal with that. Whether we deal with it by additional means of detection or additional means of penalty. There is no question there are players who are in favor of higher penalties, but there are players who aren't. We're going to have to work through it with the Commissioner's Office and then we'll see where we are."
He further noted that there have been discussions of "differential penalties" that would discipline inadvertent users of performance-enhancers less severely than those who intentionally break the rules.
Asked about comments made by former All-Star right-hander Curt Schilling that he favored a two-strikes-and-out policy as opposed to the current system of 50 games for a first offense, 100 for a second and a lifetime ban for a third, he wouldn't rule it out.
"At a staff level, we're probably not in favor of that," he said. "But if that's what the players want, that's what they're going to get.
"I can see it getting tougher. Will it be tougher penalties? That I don't know. We haven't even seen a proposal from MLB yet. What I expect is meaningful and helpful conversations."
As for Rodriguez, Weiner remained vague on his thoughts about MLB's case against the onetime superstar. "In certain areas, they've been fair to Alex. In some ways they've been unfair. A lot of people say they were out to get Alex Rodriguez, but I don't think that's true," he said. "I just think it was an inappropriate penalty."
Weiner's sharpest comments came when he was asked about baseball's methods in gathering the evidence used against Rodriguez and other players.
"Their investigation tactics were out in public and they shouldn't have been," he said. "There's nothing we can do about that, apparently, but they shouldn't have been. I'm not pleased by that. I'm not saying Major League Baseball did anything and I'm not saying they didn't do anything. I don't know. But we are not happy with that."
Those words echoed part of Weiner's statement issued earlier in the summer in which he decried the amount of leaked information that came out during the run-up to Monday's announcement.
"I want to close by stating our profound disappointment in the way individuals granted access to private and privileged information felt compelled to share that information publicly," it read. "The manner in which confidential information was so freely exchanged is not only a threat to the success and credibility of our jointly administered program; it calls into question the level of trust required to administer such a program. It is our view that when the bargaining parties hold their annual review of the program, we must revisit the [Joint Drug Agreement's] confidentiality provisions and consider implementing stricter rules for any breach by any individual involved in the process."
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less