A-Rod Suit Swings for Bleachers of Rage

Jonathan Mahler is a sports columnist for Bloomberg View. He is the author of the best-selling "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx Is Burning," the basis for the eight-part ESPN mini-series. He also wrote "The Challenge," the winner of the 2009 Scribes Book Award, and "Death Comes to Happy Valley."
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So Alex Rodriguez has filed his lawsuit against Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig and let's just say it looks like A-Rod's lawyers may be the ones on steroids.

Here's their rage-filled first paragraph:

Major League Baseball ("MLB"), Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig ("Commissioner Selig" or "Selig") and other officials at MLB (collectively, the "Defendants") have -- throughout at least all of 2013 -- been engaged in tortious and egregious conduct with one, and only one, goal: to improperly marshal evidence that they hope to use to destroy the reputation and career of Alex Rodriguez, one of the most accomplished baseball players of all time. Commissioner Selig and MLB persistently have employed powers not available to them under the collectively-bargained agreements between MLB and its union in order to make an example of Mr. Rodriguez, so as 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.

Whoa! From there, Rodriguez's lawyers go on to enumerate the various outrages that baseball has perpetrated during its investigation of the Biogenesis scandal. (Under the rubric, broadly, of "vigilante justice.") The list is long, the accusations serious. Rodriguez's lawyers charge baseball with buying testimony, with bullying and intimidating people who wouldn't cooperate with their "witch hunt" and with violating the confidentiality of the game's collective-bargaining agreement by leaking stories about A-Rod's case -- "turning what is supposed to be a confidential disciplinary hearing and appeal process into a public trial of Mr. Rodriguez." The suit also delivers B-movie details, such as baseball representatives meeting an informant at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant and handing over $150,000 in cash for stolen Biogenesis records.

The lawsuit is not just an indictment of Selig's handling of the Biogenesis investigation, it's an indictment of Selig's entire tenure. (One lengthy section is actually titled: "The Disastrous Tenure of Commissioner Selig." It makes a nice bookend to another titled: "Alex Rodriguez and His Distinguished Career, Both On and Off the Baseball Diamond.") It's worth reading the whole document, ideally out loud and in the voice of Al Pacino. ("You're out of order!")

It's hard to believe things have come to this. What began a little more than eight months ago as a story in an alternative weekly has devolved into an embarrassing spectacle that has soiled pretty much everyone involved.

A-Rod doesn't have a whole lot of defenders at this point, and this over-the-top lawsuit isn't likely to improve his image any. Nor is the suit likely to find much traction, considering the commissioner's broad power to act in the "best interests" of the game. Of course, one could also argue that what would truly serve the game's best interests is a little court-ordered discovery.

It's tempting to dismiss the suit as a public-relations stunt, A-Rod's desperate ploy to counter the piles of evidence that baseball has reportedly amassed against him. "They can't win on (the merits)," said one blind source quoted by the Daily News, "so the next move is 'let's attack the integrity of the investigation.'"

It looks to me like this is an investigation whose integrity is worth attacking, or at the very least scrutinizing. More to the point, A-Rod may be guilty of using PEDs, but that doesn't mean baseball should be free to do whatever sleazy things it wants to prove it. A lot of people will look at this lawsuit and say that it has nothing to do with whether Rodriguez used performance-enhancing drugs. Which is true. In its own, self-serving, A-Rod way, it's about something much bigger.

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