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December 19, 2014

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Rodriguez sues Major League Baseball, claiming a ‘witch hunt’

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Bradley C. Bower / AP

New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez heads out to batting practice before a Class AA baseball game with the Trenton Thunder against the Reading Phillies, Monday, July 15, 2013, in Reading, Pa.

Faced with baseball’s longest doping suspension, Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball late Thursday, accusing it of buying the cooperation of Anthony Bosch, the head of an anti-aging clinic at the center of a doping scandal, as part of a continuing “witch hunt” to force him out of the sport.

In the complaint, Rodriguez’s lawyers claim one of baseball’s investigators paid $150,000 in cash for records related to Rodriguez, which were apparently stolen. A portion of the cash “was handed off in a bag at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., area restaurant,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit specifically accuses Major League Baseball of engaging in “tortious interference,” essentially interfering with Rodriguez’s existing contracts and future business relationships.

Baseball investigators “bullied and intimidated those individuals who refused to cooperate with their witch hunt,” the lawsuit states.

Major League Baseball, in a statement Friday, said, “We vehemently deny the allegations in the complaint.”

The suit, in state Supreme Court in Manhattan, came just days after Rodriguez’s lawyers began appealing the 211-game ban issued by Major League Baseball. It is unclear if the suit will affect the arbitration hearing, which is taking place behind closed doors.

The suit does not address whether Rodriguez used banned substances.

Rodriguez said through a spokesman that his “legal team is doing what they need to in order to vindicate me and pursue all of my rights.” The allegations laid out in the court papers represent the latest twist in a public and increasingly contentious battle that has pitted Rodriguez, one of the best players of his generation, against baseball officials, as well as the Yankees, his employer.

In August, a lawyer for Rodriguez, in an interview with The New York Times, disparaged the tactics of baseball investigators working the case and claimed that the Yankees hid from Rodriguez the extent of an injury he sustained last season. The lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, repeated the claims in a number of interviews, including one on NBC’s “Today.”

The Yankees and baseball officials have repeatedly rejected claims that they have conspired to sideline Rodriguez and keep him from cashing in on the final years of his $275 million contract.

Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, was named as a defendant in the suit, but the Yankees, who owe Rodriguez $86 million after this season, were not, nor were any of the team’s officers.

Among the allegations, Rodriguez’s lawyers wrote that Major League Baseball had paid a total of $5 million in monthly installments to Bosch, a troubled businessman who was the head of the now-closed Biogenesis clinic in Coral Gables, Fla. The money was meant “to buy his cooperation,” the lawsuit claims, citing “at least one individual who claims to have knowledge of Mr. Bosch’s deal.” The lawyers said that baseball also promised to provide security for Bosch, cover his legal bills and indemnify him from civil liability stemming from the case.

Joyce Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for Bosch, said Friday that Bosch had not been paid by baseball for his cooperation.

Rodriguez’s lawyers also claimed that Dan Mullin, baseball’s senior vice president for investigations, had “engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a witness whom he himself interviewed about the Biogenesis matter.” Mullin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

The allegations represent the latest turn in the Biogenesis saga. For most of the year, both Major League Baseball and Rodriguez have had competing teams of investigators in Florida looking into Biogenesis, seeking to interview Bosch’s associates and people with knowledge of the clinic.

In March, lawyers for the league filed a lawsuit of their own against the clinic and people connected to it, claiming they had interfered with the league’s business. Rodriguez’s lawyers called that suit, which is pending in Miami, “a sham.”

Baseball’s investigation, widely seen as an unprecedented effort, resulted in 13 players, including Ryan Braun, the former National League most valuable player, accepting suspensions ranging from 50 to 65 players. Rodriguez was the only player to appeal his ban, which was by far the longest.

In making its defense, Rodriguez’s team has interviewed a cast of people linked to Bosch, including Bobby Miller, 41, who was recently released from federal prison after serving well over a decade on various charges, including firearms offenses.

In a phone interview, Miller said he became a confidant of Bosch’s over the past 18 months, until the two had a falling out over $5,000 he said Bosch owed him.

Miller said Bosch had told him that Major League Baseball was paying him $5 million for his cooperation. Miller also said Bosch had told him that Rodriguez was a client of his. Miller said he did not think Bosch would lie: “He’s too smart to be lying. There’s no way.”

The suit was put together by lawyers from three firms: Reed Smith; Tacopina Seigel & Turano; and Gordon & Rees.

A spokesman for Rodriguez said Friday that Rodriguez “eagerly awaits the day when all of this legal jostling is finished, and he can share his story with the public and his supporters.”

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