Red Sox offer mixed feelings on rights of A-Rod, who 'basically spits in every baseball [union member's] face'

August 16, 2013 - 3:20 pm

On the one hand, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester understands the importance of the rights won over decades by the Major League Baseball Players' Association. And he understands that one of those rights is to appeal a league-mandated suspension, and to stay on the field while engaged in the appellate process. And so, in theory, as a member of the MLBPA, Lester endorsed the idea of Rodriguez playing. On the other hand, he also acknowledged that, on an individual level, his feelings about his union's support for Rodriguez are different. In particular, the Red Sox veteran expressed his displeasure about the fact that he is helping to pay for Rodriguez's appeal of a suspension that strikes him, on a personal basis, as just. "You look at it as a baseball player and a competitor right now playing the Yankees and saying, '€˜This guy shouldn'€™t be playing.'€™ And then you kind of step back and go, '€˜OK, I'€™m a union member and if something were to happen to one of these guys in here or myself or whatever, I would want that appeals process,'€™ " said Lester. "[But] I think this instance is a little different. I don'€™t feel like this is just a positive test. I think like they have got enough evidence to come forward and say, '€˜This is a just penalty for what you have done from what we see right here in testimonies and whatever else they have done.'€™ "I feel like he shouldn'€™t be playing. I understand -- all of the other guys took their penalties and left and went home or whatever they'€™re doing. I get that his [penalty] is a little bit different, but at the same time I think it leaves a sour taste in a lot of guys'€™ mouths because we have to support our union. We have to. At the same time, when somebody does something like this that basically spits in every baseball player that'€™s in the union'€™s face, it is tough to kind of sit there and go, '€˜OK, I support the appeals process.'€™ " Lester reiterated that he finds it difficult to see union dues supporting a member who faces such compelling evidence of guilt. Fellow Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow also acknowledged that, on an individual level, he finds it difficult to swallow the notion that he will be competing against someone who likely violated the game's substance abuse policies. Still, he offered an adamant defense of a fellow player's right to an appeals process that keeps him on the field, even if, on a personal level, it was a difficult pill to swallow. How important, Breslow was asked, is it to have the mechanism of an appeals process prior to the implementation of a suspension? "Incredibly important. Imperative," said Breslow. "This particular situation I think is a little difficult to digest because of the circumstances around what has been going on for the last four, five or six years. This appeals system is really just a snapshot of our larger judicial system. Everyone here is kind of afforded the opportunity to have their case heard and God forbid anyone was wrongly accused or allegations were kind of thrown too loosely, you need the opportunity to have your voice heard. "I feel like because this scandal was so public, it doesn'€™t sit well with most guys. They say, '€˜Wait a second. Beyond reasonable doubt we have got a pretty good feeling of who the guilty parties are here and yet one of them is suiting up to play us tonight.' I'€™m not sure there is any way around that. I feel like with this '€” not to kind of speak in this kind of pie-in-the-sky terms '€” but this is kind of what governments are here to protect. I don'€™t know of any way around these uncomfortable and kind of delicate situations, but I think they are a necessary part of any judicial system. Like I said, if ever a player were exonerated then we would all be cheering the program. Breslow suggested that the situation was comparable to that of a criminal justice system that defends individuals who have committed crimes in order to attempt to avoid wrongful penalties against the innocent. While he recognized that MLB is a private entity and thus not subject to the same constitutional protections envisioned by the Founding Fathers, he also said that it was essential to come to the offense of potentially guilty parties in baseball as a necessary precondition of being able to defend the innocent. "It is going to be painful. It is going to be difficult. It is going to be unpalatable. But at the same time I think it is necessary," said Breslow. "I think that the knee-jerk reaction that everybody has here is like, '€˜Oh, the guy took steroids. Kick him out of the game. Kick out of the game for life. Who cares? Cut his arms off.'€™ The problem is you would say, '€˜What happens if his name just got mixed up in a group and he really didn'€™t do anything? Then there probably shouldn'€™t be a punishment.'€™ "But we don'€™t get to decide that. We don'€™t get to decide based on the evidence that was presented on the MLB Network whether or not somebody should be punished. There is kind of order in place. I keep coming back to this, '€˜We don'€™t have to like it, but we have to understand that it'€™s really necessary.'€™ "The response of [some players is], '€˜Kick the guys out of the union -- we don'€™t want our dues money spent [on Rodriguez],' " he added. "And it'€™s kind of like '€” beyond the morality issue, I'€™m fairly certain that legally this union has to represent him. They don'€™t get to pick who they represent and who they don'€™t. It is in our basic agreement. We have to represent these people. We don'€™t have to like it, but we do have to do it." And so, Rodriguez is at Fenway Park, ready to play the Red Sox, while awaiting resolution of his appeal of his 211-game suspension.