Major League Baseball has fired arbitrator Shyam Das after 13 years on the job. His firing comes quickly on the heels of a vote that overturned the 100-game suspension of the Rockies’ AAA catcher, Eliezer Alfonzo. Too bad the sack job comes several months too late to save baseball from 2 separate black eyes. Alfonzo’s legal representation took the same approach that Ryan Braun’s lawyer did in attacking the “chain of custody” associated with the handling of Alfonzo’s samples.
Given the timing, some may see this as a retaliatory move by MLB which simultaneously eliminates a controversial figure from the arbitration panel and makes Das a bit of a scapegoat. If you only consider the timing, then maybe there is something to that line of thinking. However, it should be noted that MLB and the MLB Players Association both agreed to modify the wording of the chain of custody rules section. Collected samples must be shipped off the same day that the collection takes place. Maybe the problem with Das lies with his interpretation of the previous wording which was not quite as clear. After all, he seemed to have issue with the following item taken from Section E of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program rulebook.
“If the specimen is not immediately prepared for shipment, the Collector shall ensure that it is appropriately safeguarded during temporary storage.”
Looks like the rules were clear enough on the subject of the Collector having a certain amount of flexibility in terms of temporarily storing samples. Apparently Das disagreed, because he ruled that a violation in the chain of custody rules occurred. I say “apparently”, because Das opted not to publicly explain his ruling. However, the circumstances surrounding his firing, and the lack of resistance from the MLBPA says more about Das than anything else.
Both MLB and the MLBPA possess the ability to fire the arbitrator at any time, but it would probably require an act of Congress for the PA to do so. After all, the constituency would have every reason to generate a backlash against the MLBPA board members, so the dirty job was left to MLB. Glad to see MLB finally stand up and clean up the mess left by Shyam Das. Unfortunately, that mess left Ryan Braun as the NL MVPee and an ALLEGED repeat offender in Alfonzo off the hook.
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