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Impolite or not, A-Rod’s “attack” on Michael Weiner is not out-of-bounds

Jan 14, 2014, 9:53 AM EDT

Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Michael Weiner speaks at news conference to announce new collective bargaining agreement in New York

When Alex Rodriguez‘s lawsuit against the MLBPA came to light yesterday, immediate attention went to the allegations that the union and its late Executive Director, Michael Weiner, did not properly defend Alex Rodriguez’s interests. Initially there was surprise, but that surprise is now turning into scorn, as if A-Rod is somehow going after the character and integrity of Weiner. And, what’s more, that it is somehow the lowest of low rent moves due to Weiner’s recent death.

Stuff like this from the New York Post, which implies that his allegations against Weiner are “shocking” and make quick mention of his recent death to imply that they are likewise in poor taste. Stuff like this tweet from Jeff Passan and a couple of references in the linked story invoking Weiner’s death, suggesting that A-Rod’s suit against the union is all the worse — and that A-Rod himself is somehow worse — because the allegations come after his passing.

I’ll state at the outset that there is no one in baseball’s management/executive structure that I have greater respect for than Michael Weiner. The way he went about his job, his success at his job and everything I ever learned about him from people who knew him well suggests that he was a wonderful, honorable man. I’ll further state that, while I may have approached things differently if I were Weiner or MLBPA here, I don’t feel as if A-Rod is going to have a lot of success in his suit against the union and that his claims of it and Weiner’s alleged mistakes are overstated and, legally speaking, are likely insufficient to get him anywhere.

But with that said, I think it’s a but much to go after A-Rod and his lawyer as if they are ghouls here.  Nowhere in the complaint or in their public statements are they attempting to impugn Weiner’s character or worth as a person and nowhere do they reference his health or any other personal matter. They reference his public acts as the Executive Director of the union and take issue with those acts done in his official capacity. This may upset some who remember Weiner fondly and/or who think negatively of A-Rod (i.e. just about everyone) but the allegations are the only way possible to assert claims against the union, which he has a legal right to do and, depending on your view of the results of this case, an obligation to do.

I get that A-Rod is a pariah, but that doesn’t mean he has to forfeit legal arguments available to him. I get that Michael Weiner was a wonderful person, but that doesn’t make him immune from criticism in his official capacity.  To suggest otherwise is evidence of emotional baggage being brought into the matter at the very least and could very well be construed as emotionally manipulative.

However understandable the impulse for such things are, they really don’t have a place in this conversation.

  1. jeffbbf - Jan 14, 2014 at 9:56 AM

    Lawyers are never emotionally manipulative, are they?

  2. chip56 - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Craig, the issue is that Alex’s suit says that the union (under Weiner) didn’t do its job and you and I agree that’s horsepoop. The Union advised Alex, as it did all the players involved in Biogenesis and Alex told them to shove their advice, got his own team to defend him rather than Union lawyers and went out on this island by his own choosing. What could Weiner or the Union have done at that point?

    • paperlions - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:14 AM

      This.

      Just because you don’t like advice doesn’t mean that they were not doing their best to defend you. Indeed, if he had followed their advice, it appears that he may have served a 50 game suspension during the 2013 season and all of this would be over. He appears to continue to think that the union should have done everything in their power to make the arguments he wanted them to make whether they were good arguments or not….the union is not obliged to make an argument just because the member wants them to do so. They are obliged to ensure fair treatment, and advising him to accept a 50 game or even a “rest of 2013″ suspension (similar to Braun’s) likely represented good advice and representation, regardless of the opinion of ARod or his own lawyers.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM

        But there’s other things the Union could have done and didn’t (or should not have done). Weiner shouldn’t have stated that the 50/100/lifetime ban doesn’t apply, and not publicly state that players should think about taking a deal. While this wouldn’t have had any actual affect, the Union could have publicly admonished the leaks of confidential information.

        I can’t get into the actual legal representation as IANAL, but there’s plenty of ways the Union could have acted differently.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        Did the union ensure fair treatment here? I don’t think any reasonable person could say that is accurate. MLB went off the deep end with lawsuits, paying witnesses, literally screwing witnesses, etc, and getting only minimal admonishment from the MLBPA. Again, it is OK because nobody likes ARod, but the MLBPA has allowed a precedent to be set that MLB can do whatever it wants and the union will allow it as long as nobody likes the player.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        The union can’t provide representation to someone that reject it. ARod went off on his own because he didn’t like their advice. The union can’t make a player accept their advice or representation.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:00 AM

        Sure, but the counter-argument would be that they failed him so miserably that he HAD TO go out and get his own representation. Then, even after he had his own representation, they continued to make damaging public statements about him.

      • scoutsaysweitersisabust - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:24 AM

        I think sabathia touches on the crux of the issue here. MLBPA decided they wanted Alex (And the rest of the Biogenesis players) to get thrown under the bus and sided with MLB in this case. So they purposely did not defend him as rigorously as they should have, as they would have for anyone else, and also subtly weakened his position at every turn possible. Alex has in actually been on an island all alone since day one fighting both MLB and MLBPA. This lawsuit is just the logical conclusion to the story at this point.

        In the end, the union was in a tough position in that the greater majority of their members want PED users punished. Severely. However the union still has an obligation to each individual member, so they are being torn in multiple directions here. This is a large reason why unions are falling out of favor in society in general as people are more able to defend themselves. Anytime you have a large group of people, while they may have some similar interests, they often also have conflicting interests.

        I find it ironic the MLBPA wants to criticize Bosh and MLB for 60 minutes, yet didn’t want any part in defending Alex in the first place.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:30 AM

      I don’t think A-Rod’s claims are “horsepoop.” I think there are legitimate issues he can take with the union. Most significantly its apparent agreement that Selig had the right to use “just cause” discipline as opposed to the 50-game scale. Weiner and the union conceded this point publicly over the summer and it was mentioned in the arbitrator’s report yesterday.

      But even if I take issue with some of what they did, that does not mean that it’s enough to change the outcome. The burden is really high. But it is not frivolous or wrong for A-Rod to pursue the claim, even if his chances at getting anywhere are low.

      • proudlycanadian - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:45 AM

        The public comments that I have seen from baseball players indicate that they want PED’s out of the game. Thus, the impression I get is that most members of the Union are now against PED’s and it is in their best interest to have the perpetrators punished. The Union has to represent the interest of those players who are against PED’s.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:15 AM

        It’s in the union’s best interest to protect all of their players, not just a subset of them. And as Craig mentions, what the Union has done regarding Arod has made them weaker.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:16 AM

        proudlycanadian: the Union did provide specific punishments for PED users in the CBA/JDA agreements. Even if John Lackey and Brandon McCarthy disagree with the rules of the CBA or JDA, those agreements were negotiated by the body that represents them, and those are supposed to be the rules that govern player discipline for infractions. For the sake of all players, MLBPA needs to enforce the provisions of the agreements. It is difficult to make a reasonable argument that the MLBPA vigorously supported the CBA/JDA provisions in ARod’s case. Bud wanted ARod out until 2015, and that is exactly what he got, with only shaky justification for such a punishment.

      • bigharold - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        The players wanting PEDs out of baseball is all well and good but throwing A-Rod under the bus doesn’t further that goal. Weiner, agreeing that A-Rod was subject to more than just a 50 game suspension severely undercut A-Rod’s position. Also, besides being hurtful and in my opinion wrong,there was no reason to concede that point. I think Weiner made it much harder for A-Rod and therefore think A-Rod has a point but I doubt it will go anywhere. Apparently the loathing of A-Rod trumps due process logic and reason.

        Ironic that the same union that fought so hard, was so successful and won so much for the players is the same union that started the PED era by doing nothing about PEDs thereby harming their own constituents. Now it publicly sides with MLB, again harming its own constituents, .. and not just A-Rod.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:30 PM

        I guess the take home message here is that none of us really know what the union did or didn’t do for ARod and if there is really anything they should have done that they didn’t.

        Agreeing with MLB that ARod’s actions could fall under the “just cause” clause, is not, in and of itself, a failing of the union if ARod actually did things that resulted in that actually being the case. The union’s job is not to protect members at all costs but to protect them from unreasonable treatment. It is not their job to act like all members are innocent of accusations, and when the evidence supports things MLB says, it is not the job of the union to say that the MLB is wrong. It is also not the job of the union to protect players from their own bad decisions (especially when those decisions include ignoring the union’s advice)….and the list of bad decisions by ARod is long and ever-growing.

        Telling players to accept punishment for something they actually did is NOT throwing them under the bus. It is exactly what the union should do.

      • chip56 - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:51 PM

        I’m not sure that it is up to Alex (or his legal team) to say now that the CBA that the union entered into with the league constitutes negligence in his defense.

        By that I mean, Weiner stating that Selig had the right to use the “just cause” provision, isn’t so much the union not having Alex’s back as it is a statement of fact.

      • bigharold - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:40 PM

        “Agreeing with MLB that ARod’s actions could fall under the “just cause” clause, is not, in and of itself, a failing of the union… ”

        Perhaps in general but not here. Having an intellectual or theoretical understanding of the CBA that includes the notion that a players actions can be so out of bounds that they rise above normal sanctions and fall under “just cause” is fine. Stating it in the middle of all the nonsense that went on over the summer, I think was an absolute failure on the part of a union chief. Perhaps it was the result of frustration trying to get A-Rod and his advisers to listen to reason. Frankly, if Weiner merely made a mistake with his comments then that’s bad. But, if he made the comments, even in part, because he was frustrated dealing with A-Rod, that’s far worse because that would be deliberately throwing him under the bus.

        The Union’s sole responsibility is to their constituents, .. and like it or not that includes A-Rod. It’s not a matter of “protecting at all cost” or ensuring protection from “unreasonable treatment”. Nor, is it their responsibility to pass judgement on the evidence. The have a legal responsibility to represent players, including the ones you don’t like, to the best of their ability and frankly this is an example of them failing to do that. Additionally, they should have been far more concerned and vocal about all the leaking that MLB was doing to wage the PR campaign.

        If one is a defense attorney and they think their client is a lying dirt bag that’s guilty as sin they are still required to render the best defense they can. They not suppose to agree publicly with the prosecution on key points, .. even if they agree. It wasn’t the Union’s job to defend A-Rod but they came up embarrassingly small with regard to representing their constituent. Weiner failed.

        I get it, .. people don’t like A-Rod, .. he’s certainly not an easy guy to like. But, even if he did EVERYTHING MLB said he did he still had rights. They, MLB, completely disregarded the CBA, JDA with regard to A-Rod due process and the Union Chief was on record essentially agreeing with the other side. That’s either incompetence or malfeasance on Weiner’s part.

  3. theebbandflow - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    There seems to be nothing of of interest in this story anymore. Not even of the get-the-popcorn sort. It’s so far from the actual enjoyment of watching baseball.

    Spring Training and the new season can’t come soon enough to totally eclipse all this stuff.

    And I totally get it fills blog posts and gets page views but I come here to read about baseball and end up trawling through legal findings.

    I mean, even a story about what Cliff Lee’s been hunting this winter would be more interesting.

  4. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:19 AM

    Far too often, anyone who dies instantly becomes a saint in retrospect.

    The problem with the MLBPA is that it always had this conflict in representing its members, and only recently seems to have shifted its position. If the MLBPA vigorously defends PED users, they do a disservice to non-users. I think Biogenesis is the first case I can remember where the union seemed to come out against those accused of taking PEDs.

    I can’t help but wonder what threats MLB used to get the other players implicated in the Biogenesis scandal to accept their punishments so quickly. Most of those guys, of course, could not afford to mount an ARodian defense, so even the threat of extended litigation would probably force them to toe the line. Cruz is the only guy who seemed to voice any objection to MLB’s tactics, but he of course is in a vulnerable position as a free agent. I hope this makes it to federal court just so all of the dirty laundry can see the light of day. Getting rid of PEDs is important to baseball, but not at the price of Bud Selig morphing into O’Brien from 1984.

  5. billybawl - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:20 AM

    In order to vacate an arbitration award under federal law (LMRA Sec 301), an employee must show the union breached its duty of fair representation. Also that the breach contributed to damages. Don’t have to name the union as a defendant, but most plaintiffs do. So of course Rodriguez’ lawyers are going to paint MLBPA and its executive director as corrupt. But it’s all just legal pleadings here and by itself proves nothing.

  6. Old Gator - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    One expects sensationalistic, baseless histrionics from the New York Pestilence. It’s just the National Enquirer in drag. I often disagree with Passan (except when he goes after Scrooge McLoria like a starving velociraptor, which is a thing of beauty) but he’s usually a bit smarter and more discriminating than this column.

  7. hbegley6672 - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    Ladies and Gentlemen! Alex Rodriguez’s new agent, Craig Calcaterra…..

    • dluxxx - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      Yeah, not really. However, it sounds like Craig could have done a better job of defending him in arbitration.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:45 AM

      We should all defend the rights of the individual vs. society. Someday that individual could be us.

      Not really in this case, because I would imagine none of us will be MLB players anytime soon, but the principle still stands. Once we say that due process and individual liberties CAN be circumvented, they will be circumvented.

  8. sdelmonte - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:40 AM

    Craig, you are about the only person whose thoughts on the whole A-Rod mess I can stand to read. Thanks for bringing some perspective to things, on the topic at hand and everything else related to it.

    Here’s hoping that Tanaka signs soon so we can talk about something else.

  9. dowhatifeellike - Jan 14, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    Most unions want to get rid of bad actors, not help them. Unfortunately for the MLBPA, they must accept all players into their ranks. The union gave ARod the same treatment that the other Biogenesis players received; the difference is that Selig jumped all over him and not the others. I don’t see how that’s the Union’s fault.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:19 AM

      I don’t see how that’s the Union’s fault.

      When you willfully ignore the legitimate criticisms, it’s easy to not place blame with someone.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:46 AM

      All of the other Biogenesis-implicated players instantly capitulated to MLB’s whims. What on Earth did the union do for them?

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:33 PM

        If they were guilty, it did exactly what it should have done. It is not their job to get players off for things they did. It is their job to ensure that any punishment is in accordance with the CBA and fair within that context. You cheat, you get caught, the evidence shows you did it…then the union should advice you to accept the penalty.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:44 PM

        It is not always about guilt or innocence here. If a drug dealer says someone is guilty, is that enough to prove guilt? What is MLB threatened a frivolous but expensive lawsuit against the drug dealer unless he said what they want him to say?

        This is one of those instances where the union should fight to preserve the integrity of the process, regardless of the integrity of the individual. Once MLB has implicit permission to ignore the process they have an untenable level of power.

      • paperlions - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:48 PM

        It isn’t like the union didn’t have access to the evidence. If they looked at the evidence and knew that the players were guilty, then advising them to take the CBA-mandated penalty without appeal is preserving the process.

        Fighting tooth and nail when guilt is established has nothing to do with fair process.

        Not a single guy has said he was innocent or fought, except ARod…indeed, anyone that released a statement took responsibility for their actions. If you did it, the union’s only responsibility is to ensure the penalty fits the crime.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 14, 2014 at 4:09 PM

        It is true that none of us has seen the evidence, so we do not know how solid it was. Perhaps the league absolutely had the goods on the players. It still seems strange that the players would not object at all unless they were under the threat of additional punishment.

        I can’t help but think the statements are somewhat suspect. The fact that all of the Biogenesis players release the exact same statement makes me think it was written by MLB and that the players had to release it as part of their plea deal. But why would they need to make a plea deal that got them the exact punishment prescribed in the JDA? I am guessing MLB threatened/intimidated them into it.

        AND, FWIW, Nelson Cruz did come out and say that he wished he had had better advice, and that he would not have gone along with MLB if he had known all of the facts. But it was too late, and he probably does not want to make waves as a free agent.

      • chip56 - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:05 PM

        The Union looked at the evidence that MLB had gathered against them and suggested a course of action. That’s exactly what your union is supposed to do in a situation like this.

        Look, being a member of a union is no guarantee that you can get away with stuff, what it means is that you will have advisers in place to give you their opinion as to what your best possible move is. In this case the MLBPA looked at the evidence and concluded that the players could fight and lose or accept the deals on the table and that’s what they told them.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jan 15, 2014 at 10:14 AM

        I don’t necessarily agree with your opinion on the role of the union. A lawyer is there to give someone legal advice. The union is there to collectively bargain for player’s rights and benefits, and to enforce the provisions of any collectively bargained agreement.

        I think it is odd that the union did not more strongly oppose the mechanics of this whole thing. No player had ever been suspended for drug use without a failed test. This was a brand new thing that was happening that threatened the livelihood and careers of union members. It also set a precedent that could threaten the careers of future players. Nary a whimper from the union. Even if they did not mount a defense of any particular player, it seems they should have opposed the idea of suspending players without a failed test. I know there are provisions in the agreement that allow for such suspensions, but they are vague and had literally NEVER been used before. I think the union should have put forth some arguments, even if they would ultimately be doomed to fail.

        Then the extra punishments for Braun and ARod, who just happen to be the two guys Bud hates the most in his domain. 2 guys who were essentially busted for first time offenses were given punishments in excess of the prescribed amount. This should be a HUGE concern for the union. Again, though, nary a whimper.

        The fact that all of the players (minus ARod) accepted their suspensions, the union didn’t object and all of the players release basically the same statement makes me think that MLB strong-armed them all into accepting their suspensions.

        I don’t know what goods MLB has on the lesser players involved, and I don’t think guilty players should get to walk away with no punishment. But I do think that the union was weakened considerably by not objecting at all to an unprecedented power grab by MLB management, regardless of the merits of MLBs case.

  10. yournuts - Jan 14, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    A pretty smart move by Arod lawyer. If Arod sued MLB alone his case may never get heard because of the collective bargaining agreement, but by including the MLBPA there is a much better chance that it will be heard in federal court. Pretty slick, and if it is heard there is a good likelyhood that Tony Bosch’s testimony will be squashed because he took money, and had his legal defense paid for from MLB.

    This is one slick lawyer. We’ll see what happens, perhaps if the Federal courts hear the case MLB will do an about face. Stranger things have happened

    • spursareold - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:22 PM

      Nope. When your union signs a collective bargaining that states that these issues will be resolved by arbitration, your suit’s getting tossed. By being a member of that union, ARoid has basically forfeited his right to sue. This will be over in about 5 minutes when the court reads the relevant portion of the CBA. I’m sure that ARage will then turn around and sue the court.

      • yournuts - Jan 14, 2014 at 6:52 PM

        You don’t know what your talking about. By suing the union he is saying that they didn’t represent him or MLB Players the right way. He is correct in the fact that any bargaining agreement can be exposed. Read the post by Craig today he has already confirm this,

  11. Jack Marshall - Jan 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM

    Invaluable post, Craig. Just because a lawsuit is a longshot doesn’t make it frivolous, and the fact that an official who may have breached a duty is now dead should not change the legal equation one bit. Maybe the PR equation, but in A-Rod’s case I’d say that horse fled the barn long ago.

    The media’s ignorance about the law isn’t just annoying, it’s dangerous. Thanks for doing what you can to address one small corner of the problem.

  12. johnlink00 - Jan 14, 2014 at 1:50 PM

    Irony: A-Rod complains that he can’t confront his accusers. Follows that complaint by suing a dead guy who, obviously, can’t confront his accuser.

    • Jack Marshall - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      It’s a civil suit. There is no “accuser.”

      • johnlink00 - Jan 14, 2014 at 2:56 PM

        Thank you for clearing that up. My sad little joke was lacking legal integrity.

  13. janessa31888 - Jan 14, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Please, let there be some GOOD baseball news soon.

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