Two Arbitration Rulings, Reflecting How Baseball Has Changed

2)When considering the content in the article, Two Arbitration Rulings, Reflecting How Baseball Has Changed, it is obvious that collective bargaining agreements influence MLB professional athletes and franchise owners.

Based on the readings in the article, what is the major disagreements or issues related to the two arbitration rulings? Also, what is the role of Major League Baseball and the MLB Player Union in these situations? How do you suggest that these issues should have been resolved?

Two Arbitration Rulings, Reflecting How Baseball Has Changed: [News Analysis]
Murray Chass.New York Times, Late Edition (East Coast); New York, N.Y.[New York, N.Y]15 Jan 2014: B.12.

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In his written ruling on Alex Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension, baseball’s impartial arbitrator raises the name and pathetic case of Steve Howe, the pitcher who was given more chances to play baseball than Billy Martin was given to manage the Yankees. Last year, the commissioner’s office said, 119 players were granted therapeutic-use exemptions to use medication, which otherwise is banned, for attention deficit disorder.

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In his written ruling on Alex Rodriguez’s appeal of his 211-game suspension, baseball’s impartial arbitrator raises the name and pathetic case of Steve Howe, the pitcher who was given more chances to play baseball than Billy Martin was given to manage the Yankees.

The arbitrator, Fredric R. Horowitz, cited Howe’s seventh suspension — his 1992 lifetime ban, which another arbitrator reduced to 119 days — as a guideline for the season-long suspension he levied on Rodriguez. Horowitz, however, neglected to note the most intriguing aspect of the arbitrator George Nicolau’s reduction of Howe’s lifetime ban.

Nicolau, Horowitz wrote, found that “a lifetime ban was not supported by just cause” and that the 119 games he missed after his suspension on June 8, 1992, were sufficient.

Horowitz mentioned “various mitigating factors,” which very likely included the one that was the highlight of Nicolau’s ruling.

Richard Moss, who argued Howe’s appeal, came up with a defense based on “adult attention deficit disorder,” which had never been presented in a grievance hearing.

Moss, the union’s general counsel under Marvin Miller, was Howe’s agent, and he handled the appeal, he said Tuesday, because the union lawyers were reluctant to do it because of their relationship with Commissioner Fay Vincent, who had thrown Howe, a chronic cocaine and alcohol abuser, out of baseball.

Coincidentally, 21 years later, and eight years after Howe’s death, nonunion lawyers handled Rodriguez’s appeal because the Yankees’ star slugger was angry with the union and didn’t want its lawyers representing him.

Rodriguez has since included the union as a target in his lawsuit against Major League Baseball, in which he seeks to have a federal judge throw out the arbitrator’s decision. Given federal judges’ overwhelming record for letting arbitrators’ rulings stand, it is highly unlikely that Rodriguez’s lawyers, Joseph Tacopina and Jordan Siev, will fare any better in court than they did in the grievance hearing.

Major League Baseball learned about the futility of challenging an arbitrator’s decision in the Messersmith-McNally case in 1975-76.

When Peter Seitz, the arbitrator, was about to rule in that free-agency case, he called in Miller and John Gaherin, the owners’ negotiator, hinted where he was headed and urged them to negotiate a settlement. Gaherin forwarded that advice to the owners, but he was overruled by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Lou Hoynes, the clubs’ chief lawyer.

Let him rule against us, they said. If he does, we’ll go to court and win there.

Seitz did rule against the owners, granting free agency to pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally. The owners did go to court, and they lost. They have been paying for it ever since.

“It wasn’t based on precedent,” Vincent, himself a lawyer, said Tuesday. “It was based on a reading of a contract. It was bad lawyering.”

Vincent, on the other hand, wasn’t pleased with the lawyering that eased Howe back into baseball. The pitcher had been suspended a sixth time but wouldn’t give up.

“When Steve Howe came to me and asked to be permitted to play in the minors, he and his wife swore they had a new life,” Vincent said in a telephone interview. “They had become Christians and would live the right way. I let Howe go to the minors, and the Yankees brought him up.”

Vincent barred Howe for life in June 1992 after he pleaded guilty to attempting to buy cocaine in Montana the previous off-season.

“We agreed he would be tested regularly without notice to make sure he wasn’t using cocaine,” Moss said. “It worked for a while, but he got busted in the off-season. They stopped testing him in the off-season, and testing was a very important part of keeping him straight. That was a failure by the commissioner’s office.”

Nicolau agreed with Moss on that point, and he also agreed that Howe had “an underlying psychiatric disorder” that had never been treated.

Recent studies had found that adult attention deficit disorder, if untreated, could lead to cocaine addiction. Moss made that argument, and the arbitrator found it reasonable enough to overturn Howe’s lifetime ban.

At that time, A.A.D.D. was unheard of in baseball. Last year, the commissioner’s office said, 119 players were granted therapeutic-use exemptions to use medication, which otherwise is banned, for attention deficit disorder.

Vincent recalled that George Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ owner, did not object to his barring Howe.

“When I called him and told him what I was doing, he said, ‘You won’t have any problem from me.’ But I had problems with Michael and Showalter.”

General Manager Gene Michael and Manager Buck Showalter got themselves into trouble at the hearing Vincent held before suspending Howe for the seventh time.

Michael argued that baseball’s drug policy was bad, and Vincent strongly reminded him that as a club executive he was obliged to support the policy, not fight it. No club executive in his right mind would criticize baseball’s drug policy today.

As for the Rodriguez suspension, people have wondered how Commissioner Bud Selig arrived at his 211-game penalty. The arbitrator’s written decision includes Selig’s letter notifying Rodriguez of his suspension. It notes that the suspension was to begin Aug. 8, meaning the third baseman would miss the last 49 games of the season. Forty-nine games of the 2013 season plus all 162 games of the 2014 season equal 211.

In his opinion, Horowitz notes that no major league player has been suspended “for any substance abuse violation longer than one season,” adding, “The suspension imposed by M.L.B. for Rodriguez in August 2013 did not extend beyond the 2014 season.”

And that is why Horowitz stuck to 2014.

MURRAY CHASS Murray Chass, a retired baseball reporter and columnist for The New York Times, continues to write baseball columns at


Steve Howe, Left, Was Given a Lifetime Ban, Which Was Later Reduced, in 1992 After He Pleaded Guilty to a Drug Charge. (Photograph by Barry Sweet/ Associated Press)

Word count: 1020

Copyright New York Times Company Jan 15, 2014

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