Baseball-Rodriguez storms out of hearing on suspension

Reuters

* Rodriguez describes hearing as a farce

* Says "absurdity and injustice just became too much"

* No precedent for Selig to testify, says MLB (Adds players association statement, further A-Rod comments)

Nov 20 (Reuters) - New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez stormed out of a grievance hearing on Wednesday over his 211-game suspension by Major League Baseball (MLB) when the arbitrator refused to order Commissioner Bud Selig to testify.

Rodriguez, in a statement, called the hearing a farce, but MLB said later in the day that Selig had never previously testified at a hearing on a joint drug agreement matter.

"I am disgusted with this abusive process, designed to ensure that the player fails," said Rodriguez's statement which was released after he left the hearing being conducted by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz at MLB headquarters in New York.

"I have sat through 10 days of testimony by felons and liars, sitting quietly through every minute, trying to respect the league and the process," Rodriguez said.

"This morning, after Bud Selig refused to come in and testify about his rationale for the unprecedented and totally baseless punishment he hit me with, the arbitrator selected by MLB and the players' association refused to order Selig to come in and face me.

"The absurdity and injustice just became too much. I walked out and will not participate any further in this farce."

SLAMMED FISTS

Rodriguez slammed his fists on the table and swore at MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred before he stormed out of the hearing. His attorneys, however, did not leave and remained involved in the legal proceedings.

In a statement, MLB said: "For more than 40 years, Major League Baseball and the players association have had a contractual grievance process to address disputes between the two parties.

"This negotiated process has served players and clubs well. Despite Mr. Rodriguez being upset with one of the arbitration panel's rulings today, Major League Baseball remains committed to this process and to a fair resolution of the pending dispute."

MLB later pointed out that Selig had never testified in "the entire history of the joint drug agreement".

"Major League Baseball has the burden of proof in this matter," the league said. "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 players' association said in a statement: "The MLBPA believes that every player has the right under our arbitration process to directly confront his accuser.

"We argued strenuously to the arbitrator in Alex's case that the Commissioner should be required to appear and testify. While we respectfully disagree with the arbitrator's ruling, we will abide by it as we continue to vigorously challenge Alex's suspension within the context of this hearing."

FURTHER FRUSTRATION

Rodriguez expressed further frustration over the hearing in an interview with WFAN radio later on Wednesday.

"Today I just lost my mind," Rodriguez said. "I banged the table and kicked a brief case and slammed out of the room. I was very upset, but it came from the heart.

"The fact that the man from Milwaukee, that put the suspension on me with not one bit of evidence, something I didn't do, doesn't have the courage to look at me in the eye..."

Rodriguez said he had fully expected Selig to testify.

"I thought this (grievance) should end with Selig on Thursday and me on Friday under oath, put your money where your mouth is," he added.

"The embarrassment that he's put me and my family through, and he doesn't have the courage to come see me and tell me 'This is why I'm going to destroy your career'. I feel like I should be there on opening day. This is my whole life, my legacy."

Wednesday was the 12th day of hearings on the grievance filed by the players' association to overturn Rodriguez's lengthy suspension.

Selig had handed down the season-plus punishment in August for violating MLB's joint drug agreement over the Yankee third baseman's alleged involvement with the now-shuttered Florida anti-aging clinic Biogenesis suspected of dispensing performance enhancing drugs.

Thirteen other players were suspended for their ties to Biogenesis with 12 of them agreeing to 50-game suspensions, and former National League most valuable player Ryan Braun accepting a 65-game ban.

Rodriguez, in appealing the suspension, has charged he was singled out for excessive punishment by MLB and calling into question the way evidence has been gathered in the case. (Reporting by Larry Fine in New York and Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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