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Legal Look: What does A-Rod's walk-off mean?

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Eric Macramalla
11/21/2013 12:42:23 PM
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Alex Rodriguez got so upset at Wednesday's arbitration hearing, he kicked his briefcase and stormed out. After the incident, he went on Mike Francesa's radio show on WFAN and referred to the arbitration process as "kangaroo court" and "disgusting".

He then declared this about his prospects of success: "I'm done. I don't have a chance. You let the arbiter decide whatever he decides."

According to A-Rod, the trigger for all this was the arbitrator, Fredric Horowitz ruling that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig didn't need to testify at the hearing. Selig, according to A-Rod, is "trying to destroy me... put me on his big mantle" as a "helluva trophy".

So what does all this mean? Where is this headed?

First important point: Rule #1 with judges is they hate to see a party not go through CBA-mandated arbitration. The CBA provides that this stuff first goes to arbitration (before heading to court). Judges want parties see arbitration all the way through to its logical end and be active participants in it. If a party like A-Rod doesn't do that, and the case heads to court, a judge can get real cranky in a hurry. So it's best not to storm out and never come back. By failing to attend the rest of the arbitration, A-Rod may effectively be undermining the strength of his court case.

Now on to Bud Selig. A-Rod was really upset over the arbitrator Horowitz agreeing with MLB that Selig didn't need to testify. The decision not to have Selig testify was probably the right one. When determining whether someone should testify, you consider the relevance and utility of the testimony. Yes, Selig is the boss. However, he didn't do the heavy lifting. Others reported to him and his testimony would have offered very little when it comes to assessing the facts and merits of the case. MLB COO Rob Manfred (who's the frontrunner to be the next Commissioner by the way) did testify and was the subject of an extensive cross-examination by A-Rod's lawyers. Manfred is a key figure in these proceedings and his testimony is relevant and important; however, Selig's is not for the purpose of the arbitration hearing. Horowitz probably concluded that Selig couldn't add anything.

It will be a different story if the court case gets any serious traction. In court, expect A-Rod to call everyone under the sun from Selig to Youpi.

So what's next.

It would be a surprise to see A-Rod's legal team completely abandon the hearing. Whether they do or not, the arbitrator Horowitz will still make his decision based upon the merits of the case. If MLB's allegations go unchallenged, then the arbitrator may declare the allegations to be true. As well, electing not to return would undermine the court case. So from the standpoint of the litigation matter as a whole, it's in the best interest of A-Rod's legal team to return to arbitration so expect them to head back.

This case is far from done. There is still a lot of legal wrangling ahead with no end in sight.

Alex Rodriguez (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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