A-Rod & Bud Selig: Watergate Revisited.

Updated: October 26, 2013
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Bag-men in unsavory locales exchanging parcels in the dead of night. Clandestine operatives paying for silence and information. A powerful man, driven to preserve his image and shape his legacy, holed up in his office and plotting with his lieutenants. A no-holds barred struggle to control a narrative and manipulate public opinion. Henchmen and ne’er do wells, secret agendas and surreptitious machinations. Leaks, leaks, and more leaks. 

The Watergate scandal?

Courtesy of www.politico.com

A good guess, but this unfolding drama is occurring in our own time. With each passing day, Major League Baseball’s investigation into Alex Rodriguez and performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) is looking more and more like the Watergate cover-up, an inept and callous effort at damage control that appears to be slipping out of control.  Commissioner Bud Selig’s pursuit of Rodriguez is pushing him to missteps of Nixonian scale that could cost him the prize he seeks. 

Rodriguez’s arbitration hearing is in recess until November 18 to let the World Series and MLB’s award season take center stage without allowing the investigation and its attendant proceedings to eclipse the game’s showcase.

Courtesy of articles.latimes.com

But, while baseball focuses on, well, baseball, Rodriguez’s well-financed team of lawyers, investigators, public relations flacks, and consultants are waging a war of attrition online, in print, and on cable and broadcast television outlets to paint the investigation as an aberration of justice, far out of step with the average American’s sense of fair play and even-handedness.  Their version of events conjures images of a secret court fueled by evidence and testimony purchased with cash from undisclosed entities and controlled by a cabal of powerful interests bent on destroying Rodriguez’s career and reputation. Baseball’s actions, as well as the Yankees’ treatment of Rodriguez over the course of the recently concluded 2013 season, cast the contest in a David and Goliath tableau, a perception A-Rod’s team is happy to advance and nurture. 

It is important to understand that this test of wills between Rodriguez and baseball is ostensibly about his suspension but, is, in reality, about A-Rod’s name, accomplishments, legacy, and Hall of Fame prospects.  As such, Rodriguez need not necessarily prevail at his arbitration hearing or in any subsequent litigation, should he chose to pursue such a course. It is likely that he will be suspended for some period of time.  But, Rodriguez and his handlers will gladly trade Selig his Pyrrhic victory in exchange for a win with the fans and the general public.  Indeed, they may harbor hopes of losing the arbitration battle to win the larger PR war.

Courtesy of sports.yahoo.com

This helps, to explain, in part, the relentless and vociferous attack Rodriguez’s team has launched in his defense. 

And they may be succeeding. 

Above all, this is the story of two men-Bud Selig and Alex Rodriguez-trying to salvage their reputations and mold their legacies.  They are playing for equal stakes in a battle for hearts and minds.  Rodriguez is gambling that the media and the fans will extend to him that uniquely American invention: the second chance to make one’s self anew.  Selig is hoping that any means will justify his ends in his effort to purge the game of perhaps its most indelible stain.

In the court of public opinion, where this fight will ultimately be won or lost, A-Rod’s team has managed to turn him into a sympathetic figure.  And that is no small feat. 

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