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While Major League Baseball Players Association player representatives overwhelmingly agreed that Alex Rodriguez should be kicked out of the union during a 90-minute conference call the day he sued the MLBPA, union leaders said they could not legally pursue his expulsion, three sources on the call told Yahoo Sports.
On a conference call of perhaps 40 players and board members held Jan. 13 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., outraged union members repeatedly requested that Rodriguez be expelled, sources said. Following a roll call of players present on the line, according to one participant and another familiar with the call, the first player to speak asked bluntly: Can we kick him out of the union?
Advised by union leadership that was not possible, more players nonetheless expressed the same opinion. Not a single member defended Rodriguez, one player said, in a forum where there are frequent disagreements.
"That's what everyone was thinking," the player said. "We wanted to get on this call and not let him back. [To say,] ‘This is our game and we don't want you in it.'"
Rodriguez has filed suit against the MLBPA and MLB in an attempt to overturn his 162-game suspension for his violation of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. The action against MLB was expected. Hedging against the same, the union hired outside counsel to sit in on Rodriguez's hearings and ensure the union fulfilled its responsibility to him. Rodriguez's suit against the union was part of his legal remedy of appeal.
The union represents the players in collective bargaining and matters of grievances and salary arbitration, and player representatives elected by each team, along with an executive board made up of players, help develop MLBPA policies. Union attorneys – along with lawyers hired by Rodriguez – represented Rodriguez in his recent appeal of a 211-game suspension. Though an independent arbitrator cut the suspension to 162 games, the decision was a clear loss for Rodriguez. Two days later, a suit filed in federal court charged the union with breach of duty, claiming it had "completely abdicated its responsibility to Mr. Rodriguez," and also accused former MLBPA chief Michael Weiner of failing to properly represent Rodriguez. Weiner died of brain cancer in November.
Players pay $65 a day during the season in union dues. The MLBPA will use money from its coffers to defend itself against the wealthiest of its members, a member who, according to the arbitration decision against him, flouted the system for years. As arbitrator Fredric Horowitz wrote in his ruling, "While this length of suspension may be unprecedented for an MLB player, so is the misconduct he committed."
While many players allowed for Rodriguez to fight his suspension as he saw fit, they were incensed he would turn on his "brothers," as one player termed the membership.
"It's beyond disappointment," said a player involved in union leadership who was on the conference call. "What brought it beyond disappointment was the fact he's suing the union. Guys understand people make bad decisions, they lie when they're embarrassed or trying to avoid punishment. Those are human qualities. Guys understand. But what made guys incensed is he would bring a suit against the union."
The union would appear to have little recourse against Rodriguez, beyond individual members personally distancing themselves from him. Not wanting Rodriguez around is different than not having him around, however, as MLB, the New York Yankees and, now, the union have learned. His contract with the Yankees runs through 2017, and even with most of his $25 million salary this year forfeited, the team still owes him $61 million. Assuming he serves every game of his suspension, that leaves him three years of collecting Yankees paychecks.
Whether he'll do so in a Yankees uniform, or otherwise, remains a question present on the minds of players who have trouble imagining him acclimating back into a clubhouse following the lawsuit. Should he return, players told Yahoo Sports, repercussions could manifest on the field.
"When he gets up to bat, you can hit him and hit him hard," one player on the conference call told Yahoo Sports. "That's what I'd do. He sued us. Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz screwed up. You know what? They owned up to it. They took their medicine.
"[Rodriguez] needs to be scared of coming back and facing people he sued. If he can't fear the wrath of getting kicked out or not being included, he's going to be forced out."
The last instance of the union blacklisting players was during the 1995 player strike, when several dozen replacement players – scabs, in the eyes of the union – subsequently were denied licensing money and union voting privileges for the remainder of their careers.
Barring a change of thought, Rodriguez will not suffer such consequences, beyond the ill will of the union and its members.
Said Tony Clark, head of the union, in response to Rodriguez's lawsuit: "It is unfortunate that Alex Rodriguez has chosen to sue the Players Association. His claim is completely without merit and we will aggressively defend ourselves and our members from these baseless charges. The Players Association has vigorously defended Mr. Rodriguez's rights throughout the Biogenesis investigation, and indeed throughout his career. Mr. Rodriguez's allegation that the Association has failed to fairly represent him is outrageous, and his gratuitous attacks on our former executive director, Michael Weiner, are inexcusable. When all is said and done, I am confident the Players Association will prevail."
Rodriguez did not immediately return an email seeking comment.