Baseball union chief vows to fight suspensions

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said his pursuit of drug offenders is not a "retribution thing."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said his pursuit of drug offenders is not a "retribution thing." (Associated Press, file)
Posted: July 18, 2013

NEW YORK - One of the most powerful men in baseball was wheeled to the front of the ballroom. A microphone was lowered to his height. Michael Weiner, the executive director of the players union, cannot walk. He cannot use the right side of his body. A tumor in his brain will kill him.

It has not yet robbed him of his ability to speak, or to fight for his constituency in what promises to be tumultuous months ahead. Major League Baseball is finalizing its Biogenesis investigation, one that commissioner Bud Selig described as "aggressive." He said those words from the very spot where Weiner spoke.

For nearly an hour Tuesday, Weiner spoke at the All-Star Game to the Baseball Writers' Association of America with the left side of his mouth. He said Selig's people were not "forthcoming" at all times. He vowed that the union will contest every possible suspension levied by baseball. He talked of searching for "beauty, meaning, and joy" in every day of his expiring life.

He paused. Then, he smiled.

"Any questions," Weiner said, "about anything not related to Biogenesis or brain cancer?"

Both sides are preparing for a contentious process. The union expects to meet with the commissioner's office next month to negotiate the punishments. Weiner predicted the litigation on the suspensions will extend into the winter.

If MLB announces the names of the suspended players, which it is entitled to do before an appeals process, it does not mean the suspensions will immediately activate. The suspensions can be of any length because they do not fall under the Joint Drug Agreement for positive tests.

"In theory, they could be suspended for five games or 500 games," Weiner said.

Selig said his pursuit of the performance-enhancing-drug offenders is not "some sort of retribution thing." He said the investigation is thorough. "It's a tribute to what we're trying to do," Selig said.

"Our players that deserve the suspensions, we'll try to cope with their suspensions," Weiner said. "Our players that don't deserve suspensions, we will argue that they don't deserve a suspension. And I hope we have success. We may not have success on every single player, but I hope we have a fair amount of success."

Adding to the turmoil is Weiner's health. The union will appoint a deputy executive director within the next two weeks. Weiner said Donald Fehr and Gene Orza would not return to roles in the organization.

The union will advocate that the names of the suspended players remain confidential until the arbitration process is complete. Cases would not be heard before September, Weiner said. But there is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that allows MLB to announce suspensions before the appeals if the cases are public knowledge.

"This is proving the system works," Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee said. "Guys are getting caught. You are not getting away with it any longer. It's not like it's a lingering issue. It's proven that we have taken care of the issue, and if you do it, no matter who you are, you are going to get in trouble and suspended and everybody is going to know.

"To me it is a good thing. I hope anyone that does steroids or anything like that who are cheating the game, I hope they get caught and suspended, and that is the way it should be."


Contact Matt Gelb at mgelb@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @magelb.

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