December 9, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
And here's the full roster.
THT's latest e-bookThird Base: The Crossroads is THT's new e-book, available for $3.99 from the Kindle store. The good news is that anyone can read a Kindle book, even on a PC. So enjoy the best from THT in a new format.
Most Recent Comments
Let’s discuss the THT Annual (7)
Three underrated acquisitions (1)
Leverage Index by inning (2)
Nationals make great deal for Fister (2)
Transaction Analysis Lightning Round: Pierzynski, Nathan, Ellsbury, and more (1)
our CafePress store. We've got baseball caps, t-shirts, coffee mugs and even wall clocks with the classy THT logo prominently displayed. Also, check out the THT Bookstore. Please support your favorite baseball site by purchasing something today.
Or you can search by:
All content on this site (including text, graphs, and any other original works), unless otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Another leak sprang from Major League Baseball the other day about its plan to suspend more than 20 players for alleged links to a reputed performance-enhancing drug distributor firm Biogenesis. This time, the news is that baseball will be ready to announce its suspensions shortly after the All-Star Game. Last column I discussed why the disciplinary case against players without a positive test would be difficult. This time I delve into the logistical aspects of the discipline cases. I hope to tackle baseball’s proof requirements in my next piece.
The Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) between the clubs and the Major League Baseball Players Association says that all grievances filed over discipline go automatically to arbitration. The arbitration panel is really just arbitrator Frederic Horowitz making the decision with a member of the panel from the clubs and one from the union who will either concur or dissent from the arbitrator’s written ruling by signature line alone.
Under the JDA, a hearing is to be convened as soon as practical, and absent good cause, no later than 20 days after the grievance has been filed. But, if there are more than 20 grievances from players, all with different facts, testimony, and cases against them, it may be impossible for all the cases to be heard that quickly unless MLB staggers its discipline and issues suspensions piecemeal rather than against all of the players at the same time. That appears unlikely.
The cases could conceivably be consolidated, but that would have its own hurdles. Consolidation would mean that MLB would have to make individual cases against each player (more on this in the next column) and each player would each have a right to make a separate defense. The findings would all be individualized, complicating the decision as well.
Moreover, each player has the right to attend the hearing, which are almost exclusively held in New York City. Most grievances are heard when the player’s team is scheduled to play the Yankees or Mets or another team within a short distance. But, with more than 20 players allegedly on the list of those to be suspended, it’s logistically impossible for them all to attend at the same time using the normal procedures.
Also, if the cases are consolidated, it would mean that the hearing would be more than the normal two-three days in complex discipline cases. It would likely be a multi-week hearing. If the players attend the hearing, that will constitute a great loss of time from their teams, something that might cause individual clubs to object. Realistically, these cases are much better suited to take place after the season has concluded. While this would delay any proposed suspension, it would also appease the clubs that don’t want to lose a player for a multi-week hearing if his grievance is ultimately sustained.
The JDA also provides that the panel chair try to issue a decision within 25 days of the opening of the hearing, following in writing within 30 days. If this turns into a multi-week hearing with more than 20 cases argued, it would be very difficult for Horowitz to issue decisions that quickly. Even holding one hearing every few days until all were completed would mean that he would not have an opportunity to review the evidence, deliberate and decide the first case until the final case was concluded.
Having one grievance arbitrator helps the parties because some of the redundant evidence and general witness testimony would not have to be duplicated in matters that would pertain to all the players, but it definitely creates a bottleneck.
It should be noted that these jointly agreed-to time frames are only guidelines. It is impossible to force a neutral third-party arbitrator to issue a decision within a certain time frame. Arbitrators want to get their decisions correct and write well-reasoned decisions. More frequently than not, that means they will issue their decisions long after the contractually agreed upon deadline.
Additionally, Horowitz is not on call to MLB and the MLBPA. He has other cases. While it is sometimes possible to expedite a case with a top-flight arbitrator into a schedule gap, it’s impossible to get an arbitrator to clear his calendar for upwards of a month without significant advance notice.
Another logistical aspect is the arbitrator’s tenure. Immediately after arbitrator Shyam Das issued his award in the earlier Ryan Braun case, MLB terminated him. Either party may unilaterally terminate the arbitrator at almost any time, but not after the case has begun to be heard. Once a case begins with Horowitz, he’s got it until the end. That means neither party would be able to terminate Horowitz based upon an early-issued decision.
Because termination of an arbitrator is a contractual issue, that decision itself can be appealed to arbitration. Decisions in those cases generally enforce the terminated arbitrator’s authority to hear the case to completion and issue a final and binding award. This likely requires that all of the decisions be issued on the same day or very close together in these suspension cases. Doing so prevents potential for headline grabbing termination and further litigation.
One might also wonder whether an arbitrator is likely to sustain some grievances and deny others in an effort to please and offend both parties, so as to retain employment. My experience is that arbitrators consider their integrity more important than almost anything else—it’s their reputation that gets them their future appointments. A fair, impartial arbitrator who issues a well-reasoned decision and is terminated by the losing party is far more likely to be hired by others than someone who issues poorly reasoned decisions attempting to balance wins and losses.
Further, many of the arbitrators I have worked with enjoy telling their termination stories more than any others. Being fired is almost a badge of honor.
Finally it’s important to note that arbitrator decisions almost never can be appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court has established deferral to arbitration for labor-management grievance cases under a collective bargaining agreement. That means that both parties must use the negotiated grievance arbitration process and cannot sue each other over these matters. And, they can appeal a decision only if it does not draw its essence from the collective bargaining agreement. Any appeal on that note would be frivolous given Horowitz’s pedigree.
It’s likely the clubs and the union are discussing these logistical aspects right now. But it’s also possible that there will have to be a preliminary hearing arguing some of the procedural aspects before Horowitz even before the grievance hearing or hearings can be scheduled.
Angels 13, Cubs 2: It's almost as if Josh Hamilton hadn't totally forgotten how to play baseball or something. Go figure. Two homers and five RBI in this romp. One of his homers was back-to-back with a Pujols home run. First time that's happened this year.
Nationals 5, Phillies 1: The Nats hit four homers off Cliff Lee: back-to-back in the fifth, back-to-back in the sixth. Otherwise Lee was fine and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play.
Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 5: The sweep, as A.J. Ellis ties it up in the ninth and then homers in the 14th. The Dodgers were 12 games under .500 and nine and a half games out of first on June 22. Now they are back to .500 and one and a half back of the Diamondbacks after winning 15 of 18. I do a lot of radio spots around the country each week. A lot of the same stations over and over. It's cute how the hosts and I talk about the surging Dodgers without acknowledging that we both talked about Don Mattingly's imminent firing just a few weeks ago. We totally pretend we never said that stuff.
Blue Jays 5, Indians 4: They Jays rallied for three in the ninth and then held the Tribe's own ninth inning rally to two runs. Terry Francona explains the ninth inning:
"Smitty had faced Arencibia four times and struck him out four times," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "That's the match-up we wanted. With Kawasaki, he just left the ball over the plate and Bourny mishandled it for the unearned run."
It takes a real pro to be obviously angry and disappointed but STILL use silly, childish nicknames for your players. That's why Tito is Tito. Or maybe he should be Titoy or something.
Mets 7, Giants 2: Zack Wheeler was in the Giants organization once. They decided that a rental of Carlos Beltran was more valuable to them than keeping Wheeler. Probably not feeling that way this morning. Wheeler gave up one run in seven innings and had an RBI. Matt Cain lasted only two-thirds. The Mets sweep. The Giants are a disaster.
Marlins 6, Braves 2: A four-run first inning included a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double, which helped break his slump and the Marlins' five-game losing streak.
Orioles 6, Rangers 1: Wei-Yin Chen finally returns from the DL and gives the O's exactly what they needed: Seven innings, three hits and one run.
Reds 6, Brewers 2: Mike Leake helped stop the Reds' bleeding -- they've dropped five games behind the Cardinals -- by pitching into the ninth inning, allowing only two runs.
Yankees 8, Royals 1: Ivan Nova allowed one run in eight innings while Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay homered. Overbay's was a slam. Both Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner left the game with contusions of one kind or another.
Pirates 5, Athletics 0: A's beat writers were tweeting pics of ominous skies before this game started, remarking how strange it looked to them and how in California you simply don't see that sort of thing. Maybe it threw the A's off too. Maybe a three-hour rain delay did. Either way, Francisco Liriano stymied Oakland batters.
Tigers 8, White Sox 5: Three hits apiece for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who added a home run. Joaquin Benoit walked two in the ninth but he did manage to convert his eighth save opportunity of the year so perhaps there is finally some stability at the end of the Tigers bullpen.
Rays 4, Twins 3: Thirteen innings played, 35 strikeouts between the teams. Bet this one was riveting to watch. Ben Zobrist with the game winning single. The Twins have dropped 10 of 11. The Rays are on fire.
Red Sox 11, Mariners 4: David Ortiz doubled, homered and drove in three. Felix Doubront allowed one run in seven. Ortiz's double put him past Harold Baines for the most hits from a DH all-time.
Cardinals 5, Astros 4: Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer in the seventh -- off a lefty -- to put the Cards past Houston. Take that, platoon splits.
Rockies 5, Padres 4: Jorge De La Rosa took a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning. It was his sixth straight win against the Padres.