The ruling is in: Alex Rodriguez has been suspended for 162 games, meaning he'll miss the entire 2014 season.
Arbitrator Fredric Horowitz did not uphold the entire 211-game suspension that was originally handed out (and was intended to keep Rodriguez out for what then remained of 2013, along with all of 2014), but his ruling is still a big win for MLB, which had decided that it desperately wanted to nail Rodriguez to the wall, as professional sports leagues usually try to do with their biggest stars.
Wait... that's not what professional sports leagues usual do, and this whole thing has been kind of bizzarre.
The big winners in this are the New York Yankees, who signed Rodriguez to a ridiculous extension a few years back, and are now no longer on the hook for his $27.5 million cap figure in 2014. This puts them well below the $189-million luxury tax threshold, and means they can stay below that line even if they sign Masahiro Tanaka, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez, or any other big free agent still out there. If the Yankees stay below that mark for 2014, it will reset their luxury tax payments, saving them tens of millions of dollars over the next few years, all in exchange for one year's worth of production from a 38-year-old third baseman who missed half the team's games during the last two seasons with injuries and put up a modest OPS of .780 when he did play.
Given that MLB owners are largely complicit in PED use, it seems bizzarre that they should be so massively rewarded in a situation like this, but then we sometimes forget that the actual reason MLB exists is to make owners even richer.
Rodriguez has already released a statement, which reads in part:
"The number of games sadly comes as no surprise, as the deck has been stacked against me from day one. This is one man's decision, that was not put before a fair and impartial jury, does not involve me having failed a single drug test, is at odds with the facts and is inconsistent with the terms of the Joint Drug Agreement and the Basic Agreement, and relies on testimony and documents that would never have been allowed in any court in the United States because they are false and wholly unreliable. This injustice is MLB's first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round, instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy, and further insulating its corrupt investigative program from any variety defense by accused players, or any variety of objective review."
I don't doubt that Rodriguez will be appealing this decision, but as the hearing was already part of an appeal, I doubt he's going to get anywhere further with this, in terms of reducing the sentence. Rodriguez is out for 2014, and his time as a productive MLB player is probably at an end. Meanwhile, the Yankees save a fortune, and MLB knows it can ignore the terms agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement and hand out more severe penalties when the spirit moves them.