Wednesday, July 24, 2013

MLB's ongoing kangaroo court

Decades ago, Major League Baseball, in conjunction with the Players union, established an arbitration panel to have the final say on any contentious matter the owners and players could not come to an agreement on. This panel did, and does, consist of 3 people. One is appointed by the owners, and one by the union. The third is first determined by amassing a list of "qualifed" people, often former real judges and/or labor relations "experts". Then alternately, each side, management and union, will strike a name until only one is left. Presto, the last man standing gets the job (a woman has yet to survive the cut-down process).

Though technically a 3 judge panel, basically it's akin to having a hard-core Democrat, an equally hard core Republican, and an independent deciding any matters brought before them. In other words, despite whatever evidence there may be, you already know which way the first two are going to vote. One yea and one nay. These two people are no more than puppets serving their masters, and both their salaries are a waste of money. So basically, it all boils down to one guy making the calls.

To be fair, both management and the union have the prerogative of terminating the employment of this person, after written notice has been given. Yet, to my knowledge, the union has never exercised this right. Not so, when it comes to management.

A man named Peter Seitz held the position from 1974-75. It was his ruling that finally struck down baseball's "reserve clause", which ultimately opened the doors to free agency as we know it today. Sure, the notion that an employee (player) should be indentured to the same employer (team) for life was absurd. Then again, this eventually resulted in the outrageous players' salaries we have come to suffer. There's a reason the average family of four might have to skip a house payment to attend a game. I get that, and agree player paychecks went beyond ludicrous a long time ago and now reside in the magical world of insanity. Still, a ruling is a ruling, and both sides had agreed on Mr. Seitz to make such calls beforehand. For this decision, he was summarily fired shortly thereafter by the owners.

Fast forward a decade, and a man named Thomas Roberts held the same position. Remember the "collusion" thing over stifling the free agent market back in the 80's that walloped the owners in their pocketbooks? Roberts made that call. Management pink-slipped him too.

Just last year, one Shyam Das overturned the 50-game suspension MLB was attempting to impose on Ryan Braun. Within days of his ruling, Das was history. Guess who fired him?

It should be noted that, along the way, the players and their union lost their fair share of cases too. But they never fired the judge.

And now here we are with the same Ryan Braun. He just got suspended for the remainder of the season. No arbitrator was involved, mind you, just a mandate handed down from MLB.

So let's see if I understand this correctly. MLB has decided to kick the very same arbitration court they were instrumental in creating in the first place to the curb, in favor of unilaterally issuing "executive orders" -- and meting out whatever punishment they see as appropriate. This appears to be a kangaroo court on steroids themselves.

Worse, evidently there's a clause in the collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players' union that states neither side is allowed to discuss the details of such punishments. So basically, try as they might, the press, and the fans might never know the whys and wherefores of what is happening. No evidence, no testimony, no nothing for the public to ponder and debate. It just IS, because they say so. Do you see something seriously wrong with this picture?

Yes, though never actually admitting he was guilty of PED abuse (though so many others have read that into his statement -- see previous post), Ryan Braun accepted his suspension and is trying to quietly go away until next year when he can play again.

But such actions on the part of MLB raise an interesting scenario. Let's not forget, they have another 14-15 players on their hit-list, likely the most notable being Alex Rodriguez. MLB has allegedly tied all these guys into the now defunct Biogenesis, a company which purported to be an "anti-aging" outfit, but many suspect was providing all sorts of PEDs to many baseball players. So what would happen if......

Unlike Ryan Braun, one of those others players refused to accept any suspension handed down by MLB, and decided to fight it, specifically in the judicial system? After all, everyone is entitled to their "day in court" when they feel they have been wronged.

Could not such a plaintiff reasonably argue that MLB has bypassed the very arbitration process they themselves agreed to, and usurped final authority to do what they will? Would that constitute breach of contract? Maybe. Ironically, if the player wanted to really push it -- his lawyers could argue that the owners and the union were in "collusion" (sound familiar?) when they negotiated a collective bargaining agreement that provided for the suppression of evidence that would explain why the player was being punished in the first place.

Whoever heard of a court system where the prosecutors could charge crimes and hand out sentences without presenting any evidence? And BTW, either fire judges they deemed not closely enough allied with their camp, or put on the robes themselves and just bypass a neutral juror altogether? To boot, the defense (union) has agreed in writing to such things being allowed to happen? That's insane.

But that appears to be what's happening with MLB right now. The fat-cats have imposed martial law.

Methinks if just one of those other 14-15 guys has the guts and determination to stand up and fight this thing, no matter how long it takes, and whatever courts the case eventually winds through, up to and including the Supremes, MLB might be in for another big hit.

Because many things are really, REALLY wrong with what's going on right now.














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