Before A-Rod: Steve Garvey took union to Supreme Court — and lost

David Brown

Alex Rodriguez is not the first member of the Major League Baseball Players Association ever to sue the union. In the wake of players being awarded $280 million because owners illegally colluding to keep free-agent prices down in the 1980s, slugger Steve Garvey filed a suit of his own against the union because he thought he got shorted.

Garvey's case reached the Supreme Court, which ruled against him 8-1 in May 2001, overturning a 9th Circuit Court decision that had awarded Garvey $3 million back pay, plus interest.

Rodriguez is suing the MLBPA because, he says, it corrupted the arbitration process in his Biogenesis suspension case. There, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz reduced the suspension MLB gave A-Rod from 211 games to the 2014 season, playoffs included (if necessary).

Here are key portions of the high court's Garvey decision that relate to A-Rod's case:

We recently reiterated that if an " 'arbitrator is even arguably construing or applying the contract and acting within the scope of his authority,' the fact that 'a court is convinced he committed serious error does not suffice to overturn his decision.' "

When an arbitrator resolves disputes regarding the application of a contract, and no dishonesty is alleged, the arbitrator's "improvident, even silly, factfinding" does not provide a basis for a reviewing court to refuse to enforce the award.

Pardon the legalese, but that doesn't sound like it bodes well for A-Rod. And, to read Eugene Freedman in Baseball Prospectus, it doesn't bode well. Freedman is deputy general counsel for NATCA — air traffic controllers — who also writes about labor law:

Similarly, any challenge to Arbitrator Frederic Horowitz’s pending award in the Rodriguez matter will be denied as well. Garvey’s case is interesting, however, because the Supreme Court laid out the standard courts must use in reviewing labor arbitration cases based upon prior case law, didn’t really add any new theory, and then applied that standard to a case involving the sport we all know and love.

So, that's where A-Rod's suit, likely, is headed: Nowhere.

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David Brown edits Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rdbrown@yahoo-inc.comor follow him on Twitter!

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