Midday on January 11, 2014, Arbitrator Federic Horowitz issued his expected decision upholding the suspension of Alex Rodriquez under the terms of the agreement reached by Major League Baseball and reducing its duration from 211 games to 162 games, sidelining A-Rod for the 2014 season. Within minutes, Mr. Rodriquez issued his response attacking the result. He said the outcome "sadly comes as no surprise." What could he expect, he alleged, from a labor arbitration system that was unjust and a League that was "corrupt?"
It is impossible to comment on, or criticize, the Arbitrator's opinion because, as of yet, it has not been made public. What should be said, however, is that A-Rod's vow to bring the merits of his case to a "Federal Judge" has absolutely no basis in law. This strategy demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of labor arbitration in the American labor relations system.
As the MLB Players Association stated in its response to the ruling, the decision of the Arbitrator is "final and binding." That means under the parties' collective bargaining agreement there is no appeal to a state or federal court on the merits of the Arbitrator's decision. The United States Supreme Court in 1960 plainly stated that the role of the court was not to review a labor arbitration award on its merits. There are only limited occasions where a court will intervene in arbitration, in particular where the arbitrator was not neutral and failed to disclose a prior personal or business relationship with one party or the other. Nothing of that sort is involved here. Mr. Horowitz was selected by both the MLB and the MLBPA to hear these disputes. He is a well-respected and much-experienced labor neutral.
As this case proceeded to arbitration, it was apparent to any observer that the legal team that supports Rodriquez preferred a venue other than arbitration in which to air its allegations about the Commissioner. In any case, the Rodriquez arbitration case is over. You get nine innings and then you sit down on the bench and wait for 2015.
In the coming days and weeks we will hear much from the Rodriquez attorneys about the unfairness of the arbitration process. They object that hearsay was admitted into evidence. Every arbitrator admits hearsay into evidence and then evaluates the weight the testimony should be given. They rail against the inadequacy of the evidence presented by Major League Baseball, but they are yet to fulfill their promise to make all the evidence public. We are left with protestations without any substance.
Was Alex Rodriquez a premier baseball talent? Without question. Did Alex Rodriquez use performance-enhancing drugs and recruit other players for Biogenesis? I don't have the slightest idea. The issue here is the integrity and legitimacy of the labor arbitration process, and the need to defend the role it plays in protecting the rights of employees and employers in the American workplace.