Alex Rodriguez is one of the highest paid athletes of all time. He also has to be one of the most despised. But this is precisely why the Yankees and MLB officials are getting away with a blatant effort to cheat A-Rod out of money for activities from which they benefited financially.
Yes, it is obvious that A-Rod has used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) that are banned by baseball. Yes, A-Rod often behaves like a jerk. But being a jerk who cheats with drugs does not explain why the MLB is seeking much higher punishment of A-Rod than other baseball players who are also PED-using jerks.
The explanation is money. If A-Rod is suspended for using banned substances the Yankees do not have to pay him during his suspension. Given A-Rod’s sky-high salary, that saves the Yankees a large chunk of change. It also lowers the Yankee’s payroll enough to avoid the “luxury tax” imposed on big spending teams. And given that A-Rod has been injured and a sub-par player recently, losing his availability is a minor inconvenience to the Yankees relative to their enormous potential savings. The Yankees are rooting for a big penalty.
I know that it is hard to feel bad for A-Rod. He gets paid so much and has been such a disappointing player. But the Yankees were dumb enough to sign a contract for his outrageous salary. They shouldn’t be able to sneak out it by exploiting A-Rod’s unpopularity. Justice is not achieved by cheating the disliked. Justice requires that people get what they are owed, even if they are unpopular.
And for all those fans who despise A-Rod and other professional athletes for their high salaries, remember that the owners have even higher salaries and are making profits off of the players even after promising them enormous sums. The professional athletes have extraordinary talents for which we, the fans, voluntarily pay large amounts of money to team owners who voluntarily offer high salaries to players. Those players deserve every penny they are promised. Hating talented people who earn large amounts of money is nothing but petty jealousy.
A system where team owners don’t have to pay players who are caught using PEDs unreasonably benefits the owners and encourages cheating. Owners offer enormous salaries for higher-performing players, which provides incentives to players to use PEDs. The owners benefit from those cheating players because of their higher performance. If the players are caught, only the player suffers. The owner, who benefited from the cheating, is off the hook financially and experiences no other loss from the cheating other than the loss of the availability of that player.
A better system of incentives would require owners to pay players even if they are suspended for PEDs. This would provide a strong incentive to owners to avoid signing players who they strongly suspect to be cheating. In turn, it would discourage players from using PEDs in the hopes of getting a better contract. And it would encourage teams to monitor their own players more tightly to make sure they were not using PEDs. If we want to drastically reduce the use of PEDs in baseball we can’t let the owners off the hook financially when players are caught.