By the Blouin News Sports staff

Nullifying MLB contracts is easier said than done

by in Baseball.

In light of Alex Rodriguez being linked to performance-enhancing drugs for the second time in the past four seasons, every fan and sports pundit will be voicing their opinion on why the New York Yankees should try to void the remaining five years and $114 million dollars remaining on the third baseman’s contract.

The recent events surrounding their MVP are all too familiar for the Yankees. Rewind to the offseason of 2009, when Rodriguez had surgery on his right hip to repair a torn labrum. Soon after going under the knife, Rodriguez was listed on a report with 104 other MLB players alleged to have used steroids. Shortly thereafter, he himself admitted his involvement with steroids. It was long speculated that he had been using steroids to enhance his game, as many players during the early 2000’s were, so his admission may have come as a sigh of relief. In any case, it served as a catapult to an incredible year for Rodriguez, a year which he finished top-10 in MVP voting — though he’d played in 124 of the team’s 162 games. Even better than his regular season numbers were his efforts in the playoffs — he led the Yankees to their first World Series title since 2000.

It’s currently the MLB offseason, and it’s not 2009, but the Yankees are experiencing a bit of déjà vu with their slugger. A-Rod, who is coming off his worst season as a big leaguer in 2012, was able to blame most of his poor play on a bad hip (though this time it’s the left one). He underwent very nearly the same surgery he did in 2009 (though Rodriguez is now 37 and there is much more doubt he will be able to return to his previous level of play). And now comes some more familiar news: the Miami New Times has been compiling a report for the past few months and Rodriguez is mentioned as many as 16 times in it — linked to a steroid supplier, with citations of the exact amount he paid per month for MLB-banned materials to boot. Looks like we should be expecting, yet again, another admission of guilt on Rodriguez’s part.

This time, however, its sequel will likely be starkly different. Rodriguez is pushing 40 and has a declining skill set, which means fan sentiment could well swing against him — and guarantees that Yankees brass will be looking for every contractual loophole to get out of paying the huge sum owed to him.

There’s a small problem, though: the MLB Players Association has made it almost impossible to nullify contracts due to guaranteed contracts, the only type given in the MLB. However, the MLB is not without tools in this situation: in this case, the use of boilerplate rules across all player contracts. One of these boilerplate rules teams turn to when they’re looking to void a contract is the now-fabled paragraph 7 (b) 1, which allows a player’s contract to be voided if the player “[s]hall fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or keep himself in first-class physical condition.”

The Yankees will need to strongly present a case that A-Rod was in direct violation of this stipulation. As yet, no MLB player has ever lost his contract due to steroid use, but with the growing concern for the use of drugs in baseball and sports around the world, this may be a milestone case.