MLB: Rodriguez comes out swinging with lawsuits vs. MLB, union
NEW YORK — It was hardly a surprise that lawyers for Alex Rodriguez went to federal court in Manhattan on Monday to try to halt his season-long doping suspension. What was intriguing was the degree to which the legal filing they made to vacate the suspension targets Rodriguez’s union, contending that it “abdicated its responsibility” to defend the New York Yankees’ third baseman as baseball moved to suspend him.
The suit, as expected, also singles out Major League Baseball and accuses Fredric Horowitz, the arbitrator who ruled Saturday that Rodriguez should sit out all of the 2014 season, of a “manifest disregard for the law” in arriving at his decision. It says that Horowitz, who did reduce the original 211-game ban that baseball imposed on Rodriguez in August to a full season of 162 games, did not display impartiality as an arbitrator and refused to consider evidence that Rodriguez’s side presented in its efforts to have much, or all, of the suspension overturned.
But it was the necessity to go after the players association — described by legal experts as a necessary step for Rodriguez to build his case that he was not adequately represented — that stood out and underlined just how many opponents Rodriguez has now accumulated in seeking to remain on the field.
Those experts said that because individual players are not legally considered parties in the case — only Major League Baseball and the union are — Rodriguez had to take on the union, long regarded as a tough-minded, unified body that is careful to protect its players.
Among other things, the filing accuses the union of failing to intervene to stop the leaking of “prejudicial information” by Major League Baseball and of failing to stop what it described as the “abusive investigative tactics” that baseball used to obtain evidence against Rodriguez. It says the union provided only perfunctory help during Rodriguez’s actual arbitration hearing.
Three pages of the filings also single out statements made by Michael Weiner, who died Nov. 21 of brain cancer after four years as head of the players union. It contends that several statements he made last summer — most notably, his comment, in a radio interview, that he had advised Rodriguez to accept a suspension if it was limited to a certain number of games — had the effect of prejudging Rodriguez’s guilt and “corrupted the arbitration process.”
Early Monday evening, the players association responded to the filing’s harsh words with a toughly worded two-paragraph statement. In it, the new head of the union, Tony Clark, said the claim by Rodriguez’s lawyers that it had failed to adequately represent Rodriguez was “outrageous.” And he described the criticism of Weiner as “gratuitous” and “inexcusable.”
Just 24 hours before, the union had risen to Rodriguez’s defense, accusing baseball officials of “piling on” by participating in a piece on the Rodriguez case that ran on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday night.
On Monday, the dynamics changed as Rodriguez’s lawyers appeared in front of Judge William H. Pauley III in advance of their filing so they could argue that portions of it be kept confidential. Pauley, according to a transcript provided by Rodriguez’s representatives, denied the request, noting that baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig, had discussed the case on the “60 Minutes” broadcast.
“Given the intense public interest in this matter and Commissioner Selig’s disclosures last night on ‘60 Minutes,’ it’s difficult to imagine that any portion of this proceeding should be under seal,” Pauley said, according to the transcript.
As a result, Horowitz’s written decision, which had remained confidential through the weekend, was released, providing some insight into his rationale for issuing the season-long ban.
In his decision, Horowitz wrote that the evidence showed that Rodriguez had committed three distinct violations of the doping rules. He said testimony he heard from Anthony Bosch, who ran the South Florida anti-aging clinic at the center of the Rodriguez case, was “direct, credible and squarely corroborated by excerpts from several of the hundreds of pages of his personal composition notebooks.”
Horowitz also said there was reason to believe that Rodriguez had interfered with baseball’s investigation of the clinic.
“Based on the entire record from the arbitration, MLB has demonstrated with clear and convincing evidence there is just cause to suspend Rodriguez for the 2014 season and 2014 postseason for having violated the J.D.A. by the use and/or possession of testosterone, IGF-1, and hGH over the course of three years, and for the two attempts to obstruct M.L.B.’s investigation,” Horowitz wrote. JDA refers to the joint drug agreement between Major League Baseball and the union.
In his decision, Horowitz also rejected claims by Rodriguez’s representatives that baseball’s investigators had acted unethically in paying for information.
Now the question is whether Rodriguez, through his lawyers, has any chance of getting Horowitz’s ruling set aside. It will be a long shot to do so, legal experts say, noting that it is unusual for a judge to halt an arbitrator’s decision in a situation in which the two sides have a collectively bargained process for handling disputes.
“It’s incredibly difficult,” said Andrew Torrez, an employment law expert with the firm Zuckerman Spaeder, adding, “Only if the arbitrator conducted the hearing in a way that was fundamentally unfair to Alex Rodriguez is there likely to be any chance of overturning the arbitration award.”