Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Baseball needs new arbitrator

By now, I'm sure you've heard about baseball's arbitrator, Shyam Das, has reduced the suspension handed down for Kenny Rogers camera-shoving fiasco from 20 games to 12.

(If you've never heard of Shyam Das before, Baseball Think Factory has a bio from 2001 on him.)

I've harped on the fact that the Rangers are partially responsible because they called Rogers a jake behind his back and through an "unnamed club source", which is what triggered the incident. If they had reduced the suspension on the basis that no one in the club was held responsible for setting him up, that would have been fine. If they had reduced the suspension on the basis that pushing a camera man is a criminal assault case best dealt with by the Arlington Police and Tarrant County District Attorney, that would have been fine also.

Unfortunately, Das reduced the suspension on a legal technicality.

This isn't the first time Das has reduced the suspension in a high profile case. He reduced the suspension baseball handed John Rocker for his racist comments in SI(.pdf) from 73 games to 14. Granted, Rocker has the right to say whatever he wants. This is America, after all. However, baseball probably needed to take a stronger stand on racism given the declining rates of African-Americans in the game, and the arbitrator held them back.

This isn't to say Das is all bad. As a labor arbitrator, he's actually upheld some legitimate grievances from the postal workers' unions against the USPS involving the post office's use of temporary employees (apparently they were abusing their "high volume" clause of their CBA.)

The problem is, this isn't your typical labor situation. The media doesn't show up at the post office to get video of the post office guy warming up to tackle his mail route. Nor would an assault by a postal worker necessarily be news in the same way Kenny Rogers' assault would be. Furthermore, handing down a decision in a postal worker-post office dispute would not be scrutinized by thousands of "post office fans" on talk radio the next day.

Reducing a suspension that baseball has handed down, strictly on CBA grounds, is only going to be percieved one way in the minds of most baseball fans: "The guy was let off the hook." He needed to give a better reason to satisfy the fans.

I don't think Shyam Das appreciates that aspect of baseball arbitration.

Maybe it's time to get someone in there who does.

Tomorrow: TBA
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