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Suspended Rodriguez vows to continue fight

Updated: 2014-01-13 07:27
By Reuters in New York ( China Daily)

Banishment cut to 162 games, but A-Rod wants his day in court

New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez has vowed to carry his fight against a season-long doping suspension into the courts, but win or lose the controversial player is not likely to disappear from the scene.

The man popularly known as A-Rod, the best-paid player in Major League Baseball history, has never shied from the spotlight and the 38-year-old will probably be commanding attention for years to come.

 Suspended Rodriguez vows to continue fight

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez watches from the dugout during a 2013 game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Steve Nesius / Reuters

Even if Rodriguez misses the entire 2014 campaign, he still is owed a total of $61 million in guaranteed salary, not counting bonuses.

The player insists he is not guilty and not done.

"I have been clear that I did not use performance enhancing substances as alleged in the notice of discipline, or violate the Basic Agreement or the Joint Drug Agreement in any manner, and in order to prove it I will take this fight to federal court," he vowed in a statement on Saturday after independent arbitrator Fredric Horowitz's ruling suspended Rodriguez for 162 games.

"I will continue to work hard to get back on the field and help the Yankees achieve the ultimate goal of winning another championship."

Thirteen other players were suspended for their alleged ties to the Biogenesis clinic midway through the 2013 season. Twelve of them agreed to 50-game suspensions and former National League most valuable player Ryan Braun accepted a 65-game ban.

Rodriguez stood alone in challenging his punishment, a 211-game ban that Major League Baseball said was made heavier due to his past doping behavior and for obstructing the investigation.

Rodriguez has done most everything bigger in his major league career.

He signed two record-setting contracts adding up to more than half a billion dollars in his fence-busting career as the man who would become baseball's clean home run king.

His pursuit of Barry Bonds, the all-time home run leader convicted of obstruction of justice in a federal case stemming from a doping scheme, had once been seen as a holy quest for the golden boy who burst into the major leagues at age 18.

That chase was initially tarnished by Rodriguez's admission in 2009 that he had used steroids earlier in his career. With the Biogenesis fallout, Rodriguez has become the new face of cheating in baseball.

Rodriguez, a lightning rod for media attention who has been romantically linked to actresses Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson and pop star Madonna, rose from humble origins.

He was born in New York City to Dominican parents in a Latino neighborhood of the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.

The youngest of three children of Victor Rodriguez and Lourdes Navarro, Rodriguez came by his passion for the game from his father, a former professional catcher in the Dominican.

His family moved back to the Dominican Republic when he was four, then to Miami when he was a fifth-grader. Victor and Lourdes separated, leaving Lourdes to raise the family.

Rodriguez grew into a remarkable athlete, winning the national high school baseball title at Miami's Westminster Christian High School. He was recruited to play both shortstop and quarterback for the University of Miami, with whom he signed a letter of intent to attend.

But the lure of the major leagues and a $1.3 million contract to sign with the Seattle Mariners as the first overall pick of the 1993 amateur draft put A-Rod on a fast-track to stardom.

He made his MLB debut as an 18-year-old in 1994 as the youngest player in the majors, and two years later led the American League in hitting with a .358 batting average and finished a close second in the league's MVP voting.

Two more All-Star seasons followed, in 1997 and in 1998, when he hit 42 home runs and stole 46 bases.

Rodriguez achieved free agency at age 24 and signed a record 10-year, $252 million with the Texas Rangers. He put up monster numbers, clouting 52 homers in 2001 and 57 in 2002, and was voted the AL's MVP in 2003.

But the Rangers were not winning, and wanting to get out from under the enormous salary, Texas dealt him to the Yankees in 2004 and agreed to pay part of his salary.

While Rodriguez produced big numbers for the Yankees, winning MVP honors in 2005 and 2007, fans still seemed unsatisfied with him, deriding him for not hitting in the clutch as the Bronx Bombers failed to add another World Series title.

After the 2007 season, Rodriguez exercised an opt-out clause in his deal that effectively made him a free agent.

Coming off a 54-home run season, the Yankees wrote him a new contract, giving him a record $275 million, 10-year deal that included an extra $30 million in bonuses for eclipsing home run milestones.

Rodriguez emerged unscathed when baseball's Mitchell Report, citing widespread doping in the game ,was issued in December 2007, but his 'white knight' persona vanished a year later.

A Sports Illustrated report revealed that Rodriguez was among the 104 players who tested positive in what was supposed to have been a confidential survey in 2003 that established that steroids use was widespread enough to warrant mandatory random drug testing.

In February 2009 he admitted to using steroids, but said it was limited to his Texas days and motivated by the stress of living up to his mega-deal.

After the mea culpa Rodriguez broke through to help New York win the 2009 World Series. It proved to be the Yankee high point for A-Rod, who then began breaking down physically and missed large portions of two seasons.

That culminated with a stretch in the 2012 playoffs that ended with a 4-0 sweep by the Detroit Tigers in the American League championship series.

Rodriguez was pinch-hit for in key situations and ultimately benched, going 3-25 (.120) overall.

(China Daily 01/13/2014 page23)