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Legal Look: A-Rod arbitration decision and suing his union

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Eric Macramalla, TSN Legal Analyst
1/14/2014 12:14:14 PM
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On Monday, Alex Rodriguez filed his lawsuit in U.S District Court against Major League Baseball, the Office of the Commissioner and his own union, the MLBPA.

Ultimately, the big point of the lawsuit is to get a judge to set aside A-Rod's 162-game suspension so he can play this upcoming season. As I wrote here, that won't happen. Judges are very reluctant to overturn the decisions of arbitrators unless the arbitrators make decisions that are nuts, crazy and out in left field. They are especially reluctant when the arbitrator is seasoned and well-respected, which is the case here with Fredric Horowitz.

In his court document, A-Rod is arguing that the suspension was "wholly unjustified" and "baseless." Horowitz, however, relied on a lot of evidence to come to the conclusion that there was a reasonable basis for the suspension. Horowitz found that the evidence confirmed that A-Rod used three different types of PEDs over three years between 2010 and 2012: testosterone, IGF-1 and HGH. In fact, Horowitz wrote that the "only reasonable inference to be drawn from the weight of the evidence" is that A-Rod cheated.

Horowitz also found that A-Rod tried to destroy evidence and bribe Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis and the key witness in all of this. On this basis, Horowitz wrote that "deliberate efforts to obstruct an MLB investigation" or to "cover-up misconduct" can subject a player to further discipline.

So in suspending A-Rod for 162 games plus playoffs, Horowitz ruled that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that A-Rod used or possessed PEDs over the course of three years and also, on at least two occasions, obstructed MLB's investigation. While the "length of the suspension may be unprecedented," concluded Horowitz, "so is the misconduct he committed."

So A-Rod's likelihood of success in getting his suspension overturned by the court is between zero to five per cent - and probably closer to zero per cent. I just don't see it happening.

Now on to another part of the lawsuit: A-Rod is also suing the MLBPA. Basically, he is alleging that the union didn't have his back.

Specifically, A-Rod says the union breached its legal duty to fairly represent his interest against MLB. How you ask? A-Rod cited a few examples:

(1) The Drug Policy provides that most of the information surrounding a suspension is confidential and cannot be made public. Despite that, A-Rod argues, information was continually leaked to the public. Rather than challenge these leaks, the union "sat on its hands".

(2) MLB filed a "sham lawsuit" against Bosch. The lawsuit, he argues, had no merit and the real reason for it was to force Bosch to cooperate with MLB. It worked and Bosch spilled the PED beans. A-Rod says the union should have challenged the lawsuit.

(3) MLB bought evidence and according to A-Rod engaged in heavy handed investigation techniques. Rather than take issue with that, the MLBPA did nothing.

(4) The former head of the MLBPA made public statements strongly suggesting that A-Rod took PEDs. Mr. Weiner said this on Chris Russo's radio show: "based on the evidence we saw, we made a recommendation" that he accept a suspension. A-Rod says that Mr. Weiner acted against his best interests, which is a breach of the duty of fair representation. By the way, the MLBPA took very serious issue with A-Rod attacking Mr. Weiner. He passed away in November from an inoperable brain tumor and was beloved and respected by everyone - including his adversary MLB.

While A-Rod may be taking issue with his own union, ultimately this will not have an impact on whether his suspension gets reduced. That's a separate issue focused on whether there is just cause for the suspension. Whatever duties his union did or did not discharge won't be relevant.

As for what is next, I expect the judge in short order to rule he won't touch the suspension and as a result A-Rod will miss the entire 2014 season. After that, the Yankees will likely buy out the last two years of his deal and A-Rod will never play major league baseball again. Apart from being 39-years old when his suspension will be done, he's also toxic; no team will touch him.

A-Rod has burned a lot of bridges: Yankees, MLB and the union. On top of that, he's admitted to doing PEDs between 2001 and 2003, and according to the Horowitz decision, he did PEDs from 2010 to 2012. The assumption may well be that A-Rod took PEDs for most of his career. Whether fair or not, for many he has lost the benefit of the doubt, and as a result the legitimacy of his numbers will be forever questioned.

As we watch the final chapter in the A-Rod saga unfold, there is a growing sense that A-Rod may become a pariah unwelcome in any baseball circles. His relationship with baseball may be coming to a decisive end.

Alex Rodriguez (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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