NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig, accusing them of pursuing “vigilante justice” as part of a “witch hunt” designed to smear the character of the Yankees star and cost him tens of millions of dollars.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for what it alleges was a relentless campaign by the league and Selig to “destroy the reputation and career of Alex Rodriguez.”
The suit was filed during the first week of hearings in the grievance by the Major League Baseball Players Association to overturn the 211-game suspension of Rodriguez imposed by MLB on Aug. 5 for alleged violations of baseball’s drug agreement and labor contract. The suspension stemmed from baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic, headed by Anthony Bosch.
A decision on the grievance by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz is not likely for several months.
Albert Pujols also filed a lawsuit. The Los Angeles Angels slugger sued Jack Clark on Friday over comments on a local radio show accusing the three-time NL MVP of using steroids.
The lawsuit between former Cardinals stars was filed in Circuit Court in St. Louis County, where Clark lives. It seeks unspecified damages and asks for a determination and declaration that Clark’s statements are false.
MLB issued a statement Friday that called Rodriguez’s actions “desperate” and said his suit was in a “clear violation” of the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the union.
Rodriguez spokesman Ron Berkowitz shot back in a statement of his own that the league’s violation claim was “preposterous.
“Many of the bases for the complaint filed by Mr. Rodriguez last night arise from MLB’s willful and persistent violations of those very confidentiality provisions over the past six months and beyond,” Berkowitz said.
The suit claims Selig and MLB tried to smear the three-time AL MVP reputation to “gloss over” Selig’s past inaction on performance-enhancing drugs, which the lawsuit said had turned the “Golden Age of Baseball” into the “Golden Age of Steroids.”
The lawsuit, calling baseball’s probe “faulty and prohibited,” said Selig hoped to redeem himself and secure his legacy as the “savior” of America’s pastime at the expense of Rodriguez.
“Taking down Mr. Rodriguez would vividly demonstrate that Commissioner Selig had learned from the errors of his previous explicit or tacit tolerance of steroid use,” the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit claimed MLB is paying Bosch $5 million in monthly installments to buy his cooperation. Federal and Florida state prosecutors are probing Bosch.
“Such are the lengths that Commissioner Selig and MLB have stooped to in their witch hunt against Mr. Rodriguez — paying and protecting someone under investigation for providing steroids to minors,” the lawsuit said. It also accused Selig and the league of intimidating witnesses and providing cash for evidence and testimony.
Joyce Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for Bosch, denied the allegations against her client.
“Mr. Bosch is cooperating fully with Major League Baseball. He did request that security be provided because he feels his life is in danger,” she said. “However, the allegation that he was paid for his testimony is absolutely untrue. He hasn’t received $5, let alone $5 million.”
The lawsuit said two potential sponsors — Nike Inc. and Toyota Motor Corp. — have terminated negotiations with Rodriguez for potential sponsorship contracts and Rodriguez’s voice work as a hero for an animated movie, “Henry & Me,” has been cut. The movie chronicles the Yankees’ history and features baseball stars, past and present.
There are two legal claims made in the suit, that MLB and Selig interfered with Rodriguez’s existing contracts and that they interfered with his prospective business relationships.
Baseball’s “gratuitous leaks and public statements concerning Mr. Rodriguez’s alleged actions have ensured that Mr. Rodriguez will not secure any endorsement contracts in the future,” the lawsuit said.
The suit accuses the league and Selig of planting negative stories about Rodriguez in the media and trying to muddy his name and “intentionally and maliciously” subject him to a trial in the public arena.
“MLB’s public persecution of Mr. Rodriguez has known no bounds,” the lawsuit said. It said the league had repeatedly breached confidentiality itself and “went as far as to place negative news stories about Mr. Rodriguez — one of the league’s best players — on his very own website.”
The actions, the lawsuit said, were “consistent with Bud Selig’s goal of cementing his legacy as the commissioner who cleaned up baseball.”
In its statement, the league said none of the allegations “is relevant to the real issue: whether Mr. Rodriguez violated the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by using and possessing numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years and whether he violated the Basic Agreement by attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation.”
The court papers noted that Rodriguez’s suspension was four times the length of the other 13 players suspended this year in connection with the Biogenesis probe and far longer than the 50-game penalty for a first positive drug test.
The lawsuit said the suspension will cost Rodriguez tens of millions of dollars in salary from his contract with the Yankees. As part of the $275 million, 10-year contract, he is owed $25 million next year, $21 million in 2015 and $20 million in each of the final two seasons. He also can earn $30 million in bonuses for reaching milestones.
Rodriguez said in a statement his lawyers were “doing what they need to in order to vindicate me and pursue all of my rights.”
He said he still looked forward to separate arbitration proceedings and “for the day to come when I can share my story with the public and my supporters.”