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Portland Leadership Institute

Nourish the Leader Within You

Leadership for the 21st Century


Alex Rodriguez and Arbitration

Posted on 19 August, 2013 at 2:35
All right, let's get this straight, let's come clean.
  • I've been a Yankee fan all my life.  I live and breathe Yankees.
  • And Alex Rodriguez (ARod) is a cheat.  But at least he's my cheat.  In the same way that Barry Bonds belonged to Giants fans, Mark McGwyre to his fans, Roger Clemens and Ryan Braun to others, etc. 

Today we get to talk two topics:  arbitration and due process.  A sense of ethics and morality does not matter.  All that matters is one person's reading of the contract.

(to all sports announcers:  it is an arbitrator, NOT an arbiter, who will decide this.  An arbiter can settle disputes, but legally it is an arbitrator who will settle this one.  Hearing the word "arbiter" used gives an indication of the quality of the information being discussed.  Most announcers do not get this right.)

Most of you know the story.  Alex Rodriguez has been accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).  The current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for Major League Baseball (MLB) prohibits this through a Joint Drug Prevention Agreement (  The CBA/JDA states the penalty:  a 50 game suspension for a first time offender, with the right to appeal.  As in many CBAs, the employee is permitted to work (play baseball in this case) while the appeal is being heard.  That's due process.

ARod is a pariah; he is alleged to have purchased PEDs from Biogenesis, to have recruited other players to use Biogenesis, to have lied to MLB investigators, to have attempted to purchase and hide evidence as part of a coverup, to have snitched on teammates, and to have committed other similar atrocities.  People are upset over the size of his contract; they are clamoring for his expulsion from baseball.  While most other offenders in the Biogenesis case have been given and accepted 50 game suspensions, ARod was suspended for 211 games.  He has understandably appealed.

Let's explain arbitration.  The arbitrator is jointly selected by the two parties, based on their knowledge of the arbitrator's past record.  Arbitrators make decisions based on three factors:  the facts of the case, the relevant contract provisions, and the law.  Nothing else.  Common sense does not matter.  Letters to the editor are irrelevant.  A sense of fairness is not a factor.  The facts, the contract, and the law.  Period.

The CBA and the JDA are specific:  a first time offender receives a 50 game suspension.  If multiple offenses occur simultaneously, the largest possible penalty takes precedence; simultaneous offenses are not cumulative. 

Other than the use of PEDs, none of the list of alleged offenses is identified in the CBA.  No matter how anyone feels about these, they can not factor into the arbitrator's decision.  In the eyes of the arbitrator, they do not exist.

And a positive 2003 test:  this predated the current CBA.  It is excluded.  From the arbitrator's perspective, it did not happen.

You don't have to like this, but the arbitrator has only one option.  Follow the contract provisions and reduce the suspension to 50 games.  This is an open and shut case. 

If you were an employee and your manager punished you more severely than permitted, you would want similar protections and due process. 

Categories: Leadership Musings

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