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MLB Fires Longtime Arbitrator, Shyam Das PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Monday, 14 May 2012 23:49
Das
MLB has fired impartial arbitrator,
Shyam Das

Major League Baseball has fired longtime independent arbitrator Shaym Das who had been selected to resolve certain labor issues as part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Das had been the impartial arbitrator for labor matters between the league and union since 1999. According to The Associated Press, MLB informed Das and the MLB Players Association of the decision last week. The CBA makes provisions for how arbitrators are part of several processes within the player/management relationship. Das ruled over several key rulings, most recently overturning the 50 game suspension of NL MVP Ryan Braun, which the league was extremely upset about going so far shortly after the ruling to leave the possibility of taking the case to Federal Court up in the air. The league opted not to do so, but the ruling set a precedence that played a role in rescinding the 100-game suspension issued to catcher Eliezer Alfonzo on September 14, 2011. As a statement from MLB on Monday said of the joint decision by MLB and the MLBPA to rescind the suspension, “Alfonzo’s grievance challenging his suspension raised issues that were nearly identical to those resolved in the Arbitration involving Ryan Braun.” The league then added that, “It is not anticipated that any other future cases will be impacted by the circumstances raised in the grievances of these two players.”

Players' union executive director Michael Weiner expressed disappointment Monday at Das's dismissal.

"Shyam Das has been served the parties with distinction and professionalism for 13 years," Weiner told USA TODAY Sports. "We think he's an excellent arbitrator.''

The process of firing of the independent arbitrator is part of the labor agreement between the league and union for the players. While the latest version of the Basic Agreement has not yet been released, the 2007-11 CBA reads:

At any time during the term of this Agreement either the Association or the [Labor Relations Department (LRD)] may terminate the appointment of the impartial arbitrator by serving written notice upon him and the other Party; provided that no such termination shall in any way impair the authority of the impartial arbitrator to render awards with respect to matters fully submitted to him. Within 30 days of any such termination, the Association and LRD shall either agree upon a successor impartial arbitrator or select a successor from an American Arbitration Association list, as set forth [in the CBA].

In terms of finding a replacement for Das, the (prior) CBA specifies the following:

“Arbitration Panel” shall mean the impartial arbitrator or, where either Party elects in advance of the opening of the hearing in a matter, a tripartite panel so empowered and composed of the impartial arbitrator and two party arbitrators, one appointed by the Association, the other appointed by the LRD. The impartial arbitrator, who shall in all instances be designated as the Panel Chair, shall be appointed by agreement of the Association and the LRD. In the event the Association and the LRD are unable to agree upon the appointment of the impartial arbitrator, they jointly shall request that the American Arbitration Association furnish them a list of prominent, professional arbitrators. Upon receipt of said list, they shall alternate in striking names from the list until only one remains. The arbitrator whose name remains shall be deemed appointed as the impartial arbitrator.

Das was involved in all cases in which a player that tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs appealed to the arbitrator, as outlined in the drug agreement. Until Braun, Das had never overruled a suspension by the league.

He was also involved in MLB’s attempt at contraction in 2001-02. Das heard testimony from the league and others in the case after the MLBPA filed a grievance to block the contraction of the Montreal Expos and the Minnesota Twins. Other cases included cutting Braves reliever John Rocker from 45 days to 14, and also cut his fine from $20,000 to $500 for scathing comments Rocker made to Sports Illustrated.

Das was not only involved in matters involving MLB and the MLBPA. Currently he is the arbitrator assigned to address the “Bountygate” case with the New Orleans Saints.

The AP provided a history of the arbitrators that have been assigned to resolve matters with MLB and the MLB Players Association as part of the story on Das’ dismissal. As reported:

Das took over as baseball's permanent arbitrator from Cornell professor Dana Eischen, who was hired in December 1997 but quit after ruling the following May against J.D. Drew's grievance seeking free agency.

Many of baseball's grievance arbitrators have had brief tenures, with the list including Lewis Gill (1970-72), Gabriel Alexander (1972-74), Peter Seitz (1974-75), Alexander Porter (1977-79), Raymond Goetz (1979-83), Richard Bloch (1983-85), Thomas Roberts (1985-86), George Nicolau (1986-95), Nicholas Zumas (1995-97) and Eischen (1997-98).

Joseph Sickles heard one case in 1976, and temporary arbitrators were used between Eischen and Das.

Seitz was fired after he ruled against owners in the Andy Messersmith-Dave McNally reserve clause case that led to free agency. Roberts was fired after deciding management colluded against free agents between the 1985 and 1986 seasons.


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He writes for Baseball Prospectus and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).

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