Alex Rodriguez stormed out of the arbitration hearing today on his appeal of Major League Baseball’s 211-game suspension after the arbitrator, Frederic Horowitz, denied Rodriguez’s request to call Commissioner Bud Selig as a witnesses.
Rodriguez’s outburst is just the latest twist in the on-going drama between him and MLB. And it suggests that Rodriguez and his attorneys believe that the arbitrator will uphold the suspension, at least for some number of games. But Rodriguez is unlikely to get the help he wants from a court — to either stop the arbitration or overturn Horowitz’s final ruling.
Let’s review how we got here:
MLB suspended Rodriguez on August 5 for violations of the the Collective Bargaining Agreement and Joint Drug Agreement between MLB and the Players’ Association (or MLBPA). MLB charged Rodriguez with using banned substances over a period of years and with attempting to obstruct MLB’s investigation. MLB suspended Rodriguez for the remainder of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 season, which amounted to 211 games.
Rodriguez immediately appealed his suspension to baseball’s arbitrator. That gave Rodriguez the right to continue playing baseball until the arbitrator issued his final decision.
The hearing on Rodriguez’s appeal got under way on September 30 at MLB’s offices in New York. Even though Rodriguez is, essentially, the complainant — as he is challenging the commissioner’s suspension — MLB has the burden to prove that Rodriguez used substances banned by the JDA and impeded the investigation, and that the 211-game suspension was justified.
Over the course of several weeks, MLB put on the testimony of Anthony Bosch, the owner of the now-shuttered Biogenesis Clinic; Dan Mullins, MLB’s lead investigator, and Rob Manfred, MLB’s Chief Operating Officer. Rodriguez’s lawyers had the opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses and did so. There were charges and counter-charges of secret meetings, witness tampering, purchasing stolen documents and more. The appeal hearing was adjourned in mid-October, and set to resume on November 18. In early November, the New York Times detailed the aggressive tactics used by both sides during MLB’s investigation and Rodriguez’s appeal in this story.
A few days after the Times story, Rodriguez sued MLB in New York state court for interfering with his contract with the Yankees and with other business relationships. Rodriguez accused MLB of doing everything in its power (and some things beyond its power) to paint him as the poster boy for the steroid era, to push him out of baseball and ruin his reputation. The complaint — which you can read here – previewed Rodriguez’s attack on MLB’s tactics and the appeal process, and tried to lay the groundwork for Rodriguez to overturn the arbitrator’s final ruling. But Rodriguez didn’t ask the state court to stop the appeal hearing.
MLB removed Rodriguez’s complaint to federal court on the theory that Rodriguez’s allegations and his claims are governed by the CBA and JDA, and thus pre-empted by federal labor law. MLB then filed a motion to dismiss Rodriguez’s complaint on the same grounds (copy here). MLB also argued that Rodriguez had failed to “exhaust his remedies” by filing a lawsuit before the end of the appeal hearing. Rodriguez, for his part, filed a motion to remand the case back to state court (copy here). The federal judge presiding over the case — Judge Lorna A. Schofield of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York — has not yet ruled on these motions.
Which brings us to today’s developments.
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