NEW YORK — Alex Rodriguez benched himself at his own grievance hearing.
The New York Yankees star walked out in the middle of a session Wednesday, furious arbitrator Fredric Horowitz refused to order baseball Commissioner Bud Selig to testify. The move, followed by angry statements accusing Selig of bias and the entire arbitration process of flaws, appeared to be a prelude to a lawsuit challenging whatever ruling Horowitz makes on A-Rod’s 211-game suspension.
Horowitz was in the midst of the third week of hearings on the grievance filed by the players’ association to overturn the penalty given to the three-time AL MVP by Major League Baseball in August for alleged violations of the sport’s drug agreement and labor contract.
“I lost my mind. I banged a table and kicked a briefcase and slammed out of the room,” Rodriguez said during a 40-minute interview on WFAN radio. “I probably overreacted, but it came from the heart.”
Rodriguez has not testified in the grievance and said he had been warned that repeating his denials of wrongdoing on the stand could result in attempts at additional discipline by MLB.
MLB argued that it could decide what witnesses it wanted to present to justify the discipline, since the penalty must meet a “just cause” standard. The league said Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred spoke to reasoning behind the discipline during his six hours of testimony.
Rodriguez and the union asked Horowitz to compel Selig to testify. After the arbitrator refused, Rodriguez uttered a profanity at Manfred just before leaving the hearing room at MLB’s office, two people familiar with the proceedings said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because what takes place at the hearing is supposed to be confidential.
“In the entire history of the Joint Drug Agreement, the commissioner has not testified in a single case,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement. “Major League Baseball has the burden of proof in this matter. MLB selected Rob Manfred as its witness to explain the penalty imposed in this case. Mr. Rodriguez and the players’ Association have no right to dictate how baseball’s case is to proceed any more than baseball has the right to dictate how their case proceeds. Today’s antics are an obvious attempt to justify Mr. Rodriguez’s continuing refusal to testify under oath.”
The hearing continued for about two hours after Rodriguez left the room, one of the people said, and it is scheduled to resume Thursday morning.
“We have put on evidence. We have more evidence to put on. We are evaluating our options,” said James McCarroll, a lawyer for Rodriguez who also spoke during the WFAN interview. “We haven’t said the case isn’t being completed. We haven’t said that the case isn’t complete.”
Horowitz, chosen by management and the union as their independent arbitrator last year, has the discretion to eliminate the suspension or alter it. The statements by Rodriguez and McCarroll made it appear the 14-time All-Star intends to sue MLB and the union unless the penalty is eliminated.
Rodriguez already has filed one suit against MLB and Selig, accusing them of a “witch hunt,” and another against the Yankees team physician and his hospital, alleging malpractice in the diagnosis and treatment of a hip injury.