Has The Players Association Lost Its Teeth?

Is the Baseball Players Association, usually regarded as professional sports’ most powerful union, no more? Perhaps not as toothless as the impotent unions representing players in football, basketball and hockey, but in light of the Biogenesis disgrace that’s the impression.

Director Michael Weiner’s recent comments the MLBPA would not stand in the way of Biogenesis suspensions – with Ryan Braun’s for the remainder of the 2013 season the first – is not representative of a vibrant union.

The union’s rap was it would defend an ax murderer, but there is a minimum understanding in the reasoning for such a reputation. The union’s job is to not only enhance its members’ financial position, but also defend them against often overzealous owners.

While it is understandable and admirable of Commissioner Bud Selig for wanting to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the sport, the terms of Major League Baseball’s drug policy was defined by collective bargaining.

Selig’s heart is in the right place in wanting to clean his sport, despite that he and the owners initially looked the other way during the height of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa steroid-fueled home run chase in 1998, and subsequent shameful acceptance of Barry Bonds’ assault on Hank Aaron’s true home run record.

The policy has checks and balances and an appeals process, one Braun utilized and skated on a technicality. Braun beat the suspension because a MLB handler made a mistake. The process was in place to enable Braun to walk.

It is a process designed to avoid a witch-hunt and unfair prosecution of a player. I have no sympathy for a cheater and as a Hall of Fame voter will not vote for player linked to steroids. I want steroids gone from the sport, but want them eliminated the right way.

The Biogenesis case has been ugly from the start, with the evidence more than circumstantial against Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others. However, MLB did not have subpoena powers to obtain records from Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, who for a price, since went to bed with Selig against the players.

That’s distasteful and creates the impression of Selig being vindictive against Braun for beating the first suspension. It was undoubtedly embarrassing for Selig and MLB to lose that case, but it was a sign the drug policy was working.

For MLB’s drug policy to continue to work it must have an appeals process and the players can’t be denied due process. Weiner should not accept MLB’s case against the Biogenesis players without question and simply taking Selig’s word, especially with him having to purchase the evidence against players from Bosch, whose reputation is certainly not above reproach.

There have been eight work stoppages in baseball, the last one the 1994 strike forced on the players by the owners for their refusal to bargain in good faith on the issues of revenue sharing and a salary cap. This one bled into two seasons and forced Selig to sack the World Series. After that, it was hoped the two sides learned something as to never have another stoppage, and after a near miss in 2002, that turned out to be the case.

However, did peace come at the price of the MLBPA selling out to Selig and the owners? For all practical purposes, Selig has his salary cap. And, if the MLBPA gives in without a hint of due process, in what other areas will the union capitulate?

And, how healthy is that to baseball’s growth?

ON DECK: About Last Night: Not liking Bobby Parnell’s response.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

3 thoughts on “Has The Players Association Lost Its Teeth?

  1. I agree entirely here and am also surprised that the union did not fight these suspensions. Braun and others might be guilty but getting to the punishment by suspect means is not ultimately productive. In America we are seeing this tactic more and more. When a verdict doesn’t match expectations or intuitions about right and wrong then we’ve devise other ways to get to the punishment. Why MLB doesn’t own it’s part here: from not even banning PEDs until relatively recently to losing in arbitration in the Braun case, Selig has to get up to speed here. Sure Braun is now a hard one to defend, especially given his feigned honesty, but the union’s job is to make sure a player is prosecuted by the agreed to process. In this case, because the “verdict” falls outside of the CBA apparently Selig can suspend Braun for maybe even 150 games. Thanks for your take which is definitely in the minority (sadly enough).

    • Jon: Thank you for your kind response and please accept my apologies for not responding sooner. Right now, Selig is acting as a bully in this matter. You know what they say about absolute power. The Union is not what it used to be. Their job is to protect everybody, and that includes Braun and Rodriguez. … As far as Braun beating the rap the first time, there is an appeals process and he used it to his advantage. Everybody is crying about the tester, but let’s face it, he screwed up. Personally, Braun did the union a disservice by rolling over. There is a CBA and it calls for prescribed penalties. Selig is making this a vendetta and 211 games for Rodriguez is personal. … I am for cleaning up the PED problem, but it can’t be done by strong arm tactics. … And, as far as the PED issue, Selig and the owners must accept accountability for their roles and they have not. Until they do, the problem will always be present.-JD