Another Strike-Out: A-Rod’s Attempt To Shift Blame To The Players Union
As we move through October, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez continues to do what he does best. Hit homeruns and lead his team to the World Series? Nope. As the Yankees start their winter vacation early, Rodriguez has been lashing out and blaming everyone he can as he fights against his suspension from Major League Baseball for using performance enhancing drugs. After reporting that Rodriguez had sued MLB and the Yankees’ team physician, the New York Times obtained a letter from Rodriguez’s legal team sent in late August formally requesting that baseball’s players union not act as his chief representation at his arbitration panel.
Under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement, a player may appeal a suspension to an arbitration panel consisting of three members: a representative of MLB, a representative of the player, and a third neutral arbiter. The player and MLB then present their cases to the arbiters, who decided whether to uphold, overturn, or modify the sanction. Traditionally, the Major League Baseball Players Association appoints the player’s representative. However, in a sign of how desperate Rodriguez has become to blame anyone but himself for his predicament, he argued that the union had failed to represent his interests.
A players union has an implicit duty of fair representation to its members, which is only breached when the union has acted arbitrarily, discriminatory, or in bad faith. Rodriguez’s letter argued that the union had missed chances to challenge MLB on its aggressive investigative tactics, it did not condemn leaks from MLB strongly enough, and its executive director, Michael Weiner, publicly compromised Rodriguez’s position. The last accusation stems from Weiner’s appearance on a radio interview where he said that “based on the evidence we saw,” he advised Rodriguez that if MLB offered him a deal he should take it. Ultimately, Rodriguez’s request must have been rejected, as the players association’s general counsel served as Rodriguez’s representative when arbitration began in October.
Without evidence of malicious intent, there’s no reason to believe that by not taking every chance to attack and condemn MLB, the union breached its duty of fair representation. However, Rodriguez is correct to say that Weiner compromised his position. When the head of the players union, whose job it is to protect the interests of the players, says that you should have taken a deal based on the evidence, it probably means the evidence is strong. Nevertheless, the question here is not if Weiner’s comments made Rodriguez look bad, but whether the union acted arbitrarily, discriminatory, or in bad faith. Considering that Weiner made the comment in the context of negotiations to try and reduce the imminent suspension from Commissioner Bud Selig, its hard to say the comments were arbitrary or in bad faith. Weiner saw the writing on the wall and wanted to negotiate a lower suspension, likely seeing that the evidence supported suspended Rodriguez for some amount of time. When those negotiations failed, he argued that by not making Rodriguez an offer, Bud Selig was acting unreasonably. Unfortunately for Alex Rodriguez, the union’s good faith representation included a recommendation that Rodriguez take his medicine and get ready for the 2015 season.