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Major League Baseball fires arbitrator Shyam Das

May 14, 2012, 4:00 PM EDT

Shyam Das

Shayam Das, the neutral third arbitrator who handles PED and other appeals, and who served at the pleasure of both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, has been fired:

A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that baseball management has fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun‘s drug suspension in February.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the decision had not been announced.

He has held the job since 1999. He was always able to be fired with written notice by either the league or the union.  The story is still developing, but it would not be a surprise to hear that he was fired by the league due to the Braun decision, which baseball officials lambasted at the time it was released.  Of course, as the linked article notes, he also serves as an arbitrator for the NFL — he’ll hear the New Orleans Saints bounty appeal this week — so maybe they think his plate is too full or want some fresh blood.

Whatever precipitated the league’s decision, however, this is a tricky business.  Baseball arbitrators, because they can be removed by either side, have no incentive to consciously or consistently favor one side or another.  At the same time, the league or the union have little incentive to remove an arbitrator for strategic reasons because the other side has the ability to do the same thing. This is part of why Das has been in place for 13 years. Everyone was basically happy with what is always a delicate balance.

But now things change.  So a qustion: does MLB think that Das had gone too far to the player’s side of things?  Do they think they’ll get more favorable decisions now that he’s gone?  Do they expect that the union will fire back or make life difficult for the league in hiring a new one or keeping him or her in place once hired?  Or is this just a case of change for change’s sake?

I would expect a statement from the league by the end of business today. That’s how they tend to roll with these things.

  1. redguy12588 - May 14, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    In other words: ” Use the chain of custody argument again, I dare you.”

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - May 14, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      I double dare you, motherf***er. Use the chain of custody argument one more goddamn time.

      • marshmallowsnake - May 14, 2012 at 5:09 PM

        Chain of custody ain’t no country I ever heard of. They speak English in Chain of Custody?

    • poseidonsfist - May 14, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Actually, it has been used again. And it worked again. Eliezer Alfonzo just had his 100 game suspension overturned due to a break in the chain of custody. I suppose Das being fired could be related to that, as it is apparent that the Braun case has opened that defense wife open and made a precedent that other players are following.

      • redguy12588 - May 14, 2012 at 4:29 PM

        “I suppose Das being fired could be related to that”

        No fu***** sh** Sherlock.

  2. delawarephilliesfan - May 14, 2012 at 4:04 PM

    And the arguments start in 5, 4, 3, 2…….

  3. dondada10 - May 14, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    If it is change for the sake of change, MLB timed it horribly. I also don’t buy that “Bounty Gate” played a factor.

    This decision is 100 % Braun related.

  4. stlouis1baseball - May 14, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    Interesting. Right on the heels of the last development of Alfonzo’s overturned suspension.
    I look forward to hearing the “spin” er….statement from the League.

    • l0yalr0yal - May 14, 2012 at 4:39 PM

      I’m not looking at this subjectively because you’re on the other side of the state… at least that’s not the only reason… but, I believe Alfonzo had violated in the minors, correct? There was a big debate about a difference in the policies between the bigs and the minors a couple of weeks ago, so I was just wondering if Das actually played a part in that situation.

      • stlouis1baseball - May 15, 2012 at 4:15 PM

        Hahaha! I hear you Royal. If it makes you feel any better please know that I am actually two full states East of you. Right in the middle of Cubs/Reds Country. Valid points in regards to Alfonzo’s violation taking place in the minors. It will be interesting to see if MLB or the Union release any statements about his Das’ termination.

  5. bigleagues - May 14, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    So much for neutrality.

    In other news, the Commissioner of Baseball’s real title is Chief Executive Officer of Major League Baseball.

    Integrity? Nahhhh, who needs the hassle.

    • natstowngreg - May 14, 2012 at 10:04 PM

      You thought the Commissioner was anything other than the CEO of MLB? That’s Bud’s job. The idea of a Commissioner independent of the owners has been dead for a while. Hard to say when it died. Maybe when Kennesaw Mountain Landis died. Matbe it survived until the owners canned Fay Vincent. In any event, the independent commissionership isn’t coming back, barring a huge scandal — the type that led to the creation of the commissioner position under Landis.

      That said, the arbitrator’s firing is just a case of, you don’t get the decisions you want, fire the decisionmaker.

      • bigleagues - May 14, 2012 at 11:07 PM

        Greg,

        No, it’s not hard to say when the idea of an Independent Commissioner died. It was the day Faye Vincent resigned and Bud Selig came to power as de facto Commissioner.

        His entire reign over the sport has been an embarrassing joke, starting with that ‘interim’ tag lasting SIX SEASONS. Why did the interim tag last 6 seasons? Because for the first time in the history of the sport an owner was made “Commissioner”, and, well I think the owners wanted to see how that would play in Peoria . . . and D.C.

        OH, and remember “collusion”? Look it up. Guess which owner was deemed as a ringleader in that scandal? BUD SELIG.

        The owners were found guilty of collusion and compelled to repay the Players something $280 million (which was worth a whole lot more then than it is today).

        Guess which Commissioner denounced collusion and singled out Selig & Jerry Reinsdorf as the driving forces behind collusion? FAYE VINCENT.

        Guess who led the motion to take a no-confidence vote against Faye Vincent, which led Vincent to resign? BUD SELIG.

        Who was the last Independent Commissioner? Faye Vincent.

        There are reasons why an Independent Commissioner was and IS important to the sport. The notion that the Commissioner is supposed to be an Independent arbiter of the sport (as IS defined in the MLB Constitution – read it some time) yet, in the same document provides for that Commissioner to also serve as CEO of MLB, Inc. can only be viewed as a farce.

        Maybe you don’t care. I do. And I’m not alone.

        For every ‘success’ that Selig has had as CEO/Commissioner – he has two FAILS. Somehow many of those fails have been obscured by the ‘successes’. When I say ‘FAIL’ I don’t necessarily mean he takes his lumps and tries again . . . I mean Selig that Selig is INTEGRITY CHALLENGED.

        Example? During his 6-year run as de facto Interim Commissioner – he retained ownership in the Brewers. When he was finally formally named CEO/Commissioner he transferred ownership of the Brewers to his daughter. Awwww, how cute, right?

        Yeah, well . . . while CEO/Commissioner and while his daughter controlled the Brewers, Selig led the charge to contract the Twins. Wanna guess which franchise stood to gain the most from a contraction of the Twins? Yeah . . . the Milwaukee Brewers.

        Of course the younger generation of baseball fans are either unaware of Selig’s dirtiest laundry or believe he has some immense credibility because of the longevity of his tenure and the increase in MLB revenue . . . but the fact of the matter remains Bud Selig’s reign as CEO/Commissioner has been far more a threat to the integrity of the game (beyond the revenues) than a steward with the Game’s best interests as his priority.

      • natstowngreg - May 15, 2012 at 8:46 AM

        Not disagreeing that an independent commissioner would be a good thing, though I defy you to define, in specifics, “the best interest of the game.” Our definitions could be very different. When I hear someone say, there should be someone above it all, making the “right” decisions, I think, you want this Delphic Oracle deciding things the way you want. While much of your critique of Bud is true, he meets the owners’ definition of “the best interests of the game.” And they’re the ones paying Bud’s salary. I prefer to evaluate Bud’s performance based on the real world.

  6. marshmallowsnake - May 14, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Just a hunch, but I think he created a major loophole for players as we have seen another suspension overturned, and I am thinking MLB is not too happy with it.

  7. dlf9 - May 14, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    This is common practice for MLB. The owners tried to fire Peter Seitz in the middle of the Messersmith / McNally case that created free agency. (A court found that they could not do so in the midst of the case.) They did fire Tom Roberts after Collusion I and George Nicolau after Collusion II and Steve Howe’s drug suspension was overturned. Each time there is a memorable decision, the arbitrator is fired. This even applies to the salary arbitration process (something separate from the disciplinary process) where, for example, the entire panel that ruled in favor of Ryan Howard was not back the next year.

  8. manute - May 14, 2012 at 4:18 PM

    Unfortunately, Dyas will continue to hear cases, as MLB send the termination letter by FedEx and it’s currently sitting in some guy’s basement.

    • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 4:20 PM

      Ha! Well done sir!

    • ditto65 - May 14, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      If I’m not mistaken – and I am rarely wrong, you win the internet today.

    • ufullpj - May 14, 2012 at 5:38 PM

      Best. Comment. Ever.

  9. brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I’m actually surprised by the lack of reporting on the Alfonso suspension being overturned. Obviously he’s not the player Braun is but the fact that another player got reveresed and without even going to the appeal process should be major news.

    • Nick C - May 14, 2012 at 4:27 PM

      The suspension was “overturned” because he appealed: http://mlb.sbnation.com/2012/5/14/3019255/eliezer-alfonso-reinstated-drug-suspension

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 4:31 PM

        He appealed but it never made it to the arbitrator. MLB just dropped it before ot got that far. That is what I meant. I should have worded it better.

      • Nick C - May 14, 2012 at 4:44 PM

        And why is that major news? If the facts were substantially similar to Braun’s I’m sure the MLB lawyers are smart enough to see that the end result is likely to be the same as well. I’m sure they are currently working on methods to avoid this defense. While something like this is certainly grounds for vacating the suspension, this chain of custody defense is much less convincing when it comes to establishing innocence.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 4:51 PM

        Its major news because the testing process that they say is so good and aer they so strongly publicly disagreed with the Braun decision they now realize that there is a “fatal flaw” in their process. Such a flaw that they didn’t even carry out this appeal fully and then fired the arbitrator. Yeah, that sounds pretty newsworthy to me.

      • Nick C - May 14, 2012 at 5:03 PM

        I think “fatal flaw” is a bit strong. There is certainly a chain of custody issue. This is a procedural problem. It is of minimal exculpative value.

      • brewcrewfan54 - May 14, 2012 at 5:40 PM

        “Fatal flaw” was Braun and several others term for it. And if MLB didn’t follow their own appeals process all the way through because they figured they would get the same result, well then fatal flaw would be a pretty accurate way to describe it.

    • protius - May 15, 2012 at 3:41 AM

      You could expect to see cur68 on a white stallion, leading your local water company to your curb hell bent on digging up your front lawn while he chants laborious analogies, as if he were Merlin summoning the Lady in the Lake, because some guy ten blocks away had a water main burst in his basement. cur seems to think that digging up your pipes will magically repair the leaking pipes ten blocks away. Shhhhhhh, the Wiccans tell us it has something to do with the way he processes logic. But It’s OK if you don’t understand, he’ll just tell you that he will have nothing further to exchange with you, because you do not process logic the same way he does. At that point you just spit on your left shoe twice, and turn to your right three times fast.

      Then he’ll fire off a few ad hominem attacks, like the progeny of sexually abusive parents normally do. Next, he’ll threaten to impress you with his academic wit, and finally, he’ll just fall asleep in the fecal position.

  10. randygnyc - May 14, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    I agree, this is about the chain of custody ruling. Obviously, every player suspended for PED’s will have their counsel review their case. I wonder if MLB will face litigation for other cases of “improper” suspensions.

  11. Jonny 5 - May 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    I think his decision was utter bs actually and it’s putting the agreed to testing program at a disadvantage at this point. It’s now clear they will need to modify the rules of handling just because of this decision and not scientific evidence proving the result was tainted by handling.

    • The Rabbit - May 14, 2012 at 5:18 PM

      I really don’t know if his ruling was bs or not because all we have are “sound bites”. The entire basis for the decision, to the best of my knowledge, has never been released.
      IIRC, according to the sound bite, the argument made by Braun’s representatives was that the negotiated rules for handling were not followed. If they had been, I’ll bet that Braun’s attorneys would have presented a different defense.
      You’d think that the rules are somewhat similar to those used by firms who collect bodily fluids for insurance companies or shipped for lab analysis, i.e., the phlebotomist, nurse, etc. can’t leave samples anywhere he/she wants out of convenience due to privacy issues and the possibility of tampering. In addition, they must be stored properly and submitted timely because they degrade.
      I’m not seeing the need for modification. Those who are responsible for collection and submission will have to follow the rules (which are probably not much different than normal “medical standards”) as negotiated or the sample is considered invalid. It seems fairly logical to me.

  12. Nick C - May 14, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    While it is clear that MLB fired this arbitrator because of the Braun technicality, there may be more to this than what we know. Presumably, Das provided MLB with the reasoning behind his decision. MLB may have had more of a problem with his underlying rationale than with the decision itself.

    While I firmly believe in due process and think that both players are entitled to have their suspensions overturned because of the questionable storage and delivery procedures. I also firmly believe that both were taking the substance(s). Also I’m sure that MLB will change their procedures quickly to insure that these types of defenses will no longer be available.

  13. unlost1 - May 14, 2012 at 4:46 PM

    ISN’T THE ARBITRATOR ENTITLED TO AN ARBITRATION PROCESS TO KEEP HIS JOB?

    • blabidibla - May 14, 2012 at 5:15 PM

      no.

  14. rayburns - May 14, 2012 at 5:07 PM

    So, the arbitrator (or arbitraitor according to MLB), does his job, finds a loophole in the drug testing policy and does what he is supposed to do and overturns the decision.

    So, MLB’s reaction is not to try and fix the loophole so that no one else can slip through, but to fire the arbitrator.

    Curiously reminiscent to when Nixon fired that special prosecutor….

  15. xtracrispy79 - May 14, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Hey, who remembers this?

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2012/02/28/deadspin-has-a-pretty-controversial-theory-on-the-braun-decision/

    Craig was right to call Deadspin out on this and they deserve to be called out again today.

  16. larryboodry - May 14, 2012 at 5:25 PM

    MLB’s new Help Wanted sign will read: ‘Arbiter Wanted – Must Be Totally Impartial When Voting in Our Favor.’

  17. randygnyc - May 14, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Arbitrator serves at the pleasure of MLB and the union and can be terminated at anytime, for any reason by either party.

  18. stevem7 - May 14, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Just another HUGE example of why Bud Selig is totally unfit and unsuited to be the Commissioner of this sport. If this isn’t enough to totally expose how CORRUPT Selig is nothing else ever will. As long as the Arbitrator NEVER found against baseball in drugs everything was fine. First time Bud didn’t win and he fires the guy after 13 years on the job. Hard to believe that people smart enough to own baseball franchises are actually stupid enough to have Selig for a Commissioner.

  19. socal0101 - May 14, 2012 at 8:02 PM

    Good riddance to Mr. Das. He gave a get-out-of-jail-free card to every drug user in Major League Baseball. He made the game more dirty and damaged baseball’s integrity.

    • Old Gator - May 14, 2012 at 8:36 PM

      Huh? One decision, one appeal? You don’t traffic in hyperbole much, do ya?

    • phillyphreak - May 14, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      Is that why no one gets in trouble for DUI?

  20. recoveringcubsfan - May 14, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    Clearly Braun was innocent, then. This is just MLB covering its tracks and settling a score at the same time.

    Or something.

    Right?

  21. jwbiii - May 15, 2012 at 1:10 AM

    I would suggest that Braun’s legal team mishandled a sample of his in a similar manner as the collector did, and got the similar results. This is not proof, it just introduces a degree of doubt. That and passing a test immediately he was informed of his failure. This was not considered grounds for termination by MLB.

    I would also suggest that Alonzo’s team did not demonstrate the same. This was considered grounds for termination by MLB.

    Given what little I know, and what I surmise, I agree.

    • jwbiii - May 15, 2012 at 1:40 AM

      *immediately after he was informed*

      Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre Ale is yummy stuff.

  22. bbk1000 - May 15, 2012 at 6:06 AM

    Good news, either this guy apparently didn’t understand the system or made conclusions that experts in the field said were incorrect.

  23. Chipmaker - May 15, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    When Seitz handed down the Messersmith-McNally decision, the MLB rep had his termination letter IN HIS POCKET ready to go. They all signed the decision document, and then Seitz was fired.

    Waiting a few weeks to oust Das is weak sauce next to that classic sore-loser approach.

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