Pitching Probables
Injuries: AL | NL
Minor Leagues
MLB en espanol
Message Board

News Wire
Daily Glance
Power Alley
MLB Insider

Jim Caple
Peter Gammons
Rob Neyer
John Sickels
Jayson Stark
ESPN Auctions
Tuesday, February 1
Updated: February 3, 12:20 PM ET
Union challenges Rocker suspension

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- As the Atlanta Braves returned to Turner Field on Tuesday to start winter workouts, the players' association filed a grievance to overturn John Rocker's suspension.

"I'm glad there's finally a decision," Braves manager Bobby Cox said, a day after commissioner Bud Selig banned Rocker from joining the team until May 1 because of disparaging comments against homosexuals, minorities and foreigners.

"Maybe we can get this behind us one of these days," Cox said.

The players' union asked arbitrator Shyam Das to "rescind the discipline," fully aware that many suspensions by baseball commissioners have been overturned or shortened.

Long baseball suspensions
A history of baseball suspensions:

1922: Babe Ruth suspended for April for illegal offseason barnstorming.

1932: Yankees catcher Bill Dickey suspended 30 days and fined $1,000 for punching Carl Reynolds (he broke his jaw).

1938: Yankees outfielder Jake Powell, a policeman in the offseason, suspended 10 days after saying he liked to beat up blacks while on duty.

1947: Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher suspended for the year for conduct detrimental to baseball because of gambling associations.

1969: Dick Allen suspended 28 days by the Phillies for disobeying team rules.

1974: George Steinbrenner suspended for two years for making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon.

1977: Rangers infielder Lenny Randle suspended 30 days for beating up his manager, Frank Lucchesi.

1986: Goose Gossage suspended 20 days by Padres for criticizing team owner Ray Kroc.

1988: Reds manager Pete Rose gets 30-day suspension for shoving umpire Dave Pallone.

1990: George Steinbrenner barred from baseball for paying $40,000 to Howie Spira, who had mob connections, to dig up dirt on Dave Winfield. Reinstated at start of 1993 season.

1992: Marge Schott suspended for a year for saying, "Hitler was good in the beginning but he went too far." She repeated this in 1996 and received another suspension.

Many players have been suspended for drug use. Steve Howe, Lamarr Hoyt, Pascual Perez and Dwight Gooden were all suspended for entire seasons.

Juan Marichal was suspended for nine days after assaulting John Roseboro's brain pan.
-- Rob Neyer, David Schoenfield

"The discipline is without just cause," the union said in a letter sent to Selig's office.

The appeal of Rocker's suspension will start Wednesday. Lawyers for the players' association and the commissioner's office met Thursday and set the timetable for the hearing before arbitrator Shyam Das.

Richard Moss, the association's former top lawyer, said he was surprised Selig ruled Monday without a consensus on the punishment, which also included a $20,000 fine and sensitivity training.

"For the commissioner's office to just do something without consulting the players' association, without consulting Rocker and without reaching agreement on what was acceptable to everybody was kind of stupid," Moss said in a telephone interview from New York.

"What Rocker did was very wrong. The question is: What's the appropriate way of dealing with it? It should have been worked out with all the parties rather than a confrontational way. It's very stupid for the commissioner's office to do it this way. I think there's a very good chance it will get reduced, and they will look bad in the process."

In the meantime, several teammates and coaches were reluctant to discuss Rocker's suspension, though general manager John Schuerholz denied a gag order had been imposed by management.

"The players can say whatever they want," Schuerholz said. "We're just through talking about it as a team. It's over. That's an old issue. We are not going to let it be a distraction for our team."

Cox, returning from a hunting trip, said he would have preferred a quicker decision from the commissioner's office.

"It's been a circus around here for well over a month," Cox said. "It's really been the John Rocker show when it should have been about the Braves."

Even though Rocker's SI tirade also included controversial comments about his manager, Cox said he's talked with Rocker and is willing to forgive.

"I think he deserves a chance to present his case to the team and the fans," he said. "He's suffered an awful lot already. ... I know he would like to see this die down. Most people have already forgiven him and would like to get him back on the right track."

Rookie outfielder George Lombard, who is black, considers himself a close friend of Rocker's family and even spent the night at their home during a trip to Macon.

"Of course, it's disturbing," Lombard said of the SI article. "He's touched a lot of people. It's going to take time to mend those hearts."

Pitcher Kevin Millwood said he was "pretty shocked at how long the tirade went on.

"I've known John for a long time and I've never seen any of this come out of him," Millwood said.

In punishing Rocker, the commissioner noted that "his remarks offended practically every element of society."

Rocker has apologized, saying he was angry at New York fans and lost his cool. His agents issued a statement Monday saying the suspension -- believed to be the longest for an offense not related to drug use in nearly 23 years -- was too harsh.

In the meantime, Rocker could cause disharmony in the clubhouse of one of baseball's most successful teams. The Braves have made eight straight postseason appearances, losing to the New York Yankees in the World Series a year ago.

"Obviously, this is a big problem for our team," Millwood said. "He's put the whole team in a situation where not only John but the whole team has to answer questions about it."

He was asked if Selig's punishment was appropriate.

"John hurt a lot of people and now he has to pay the price for it," Millwood said. "I don't think this has ever really happened where one player has come out and gone on a tirade of this sort. There's nothing to look back on."

But Tim Raines, who signed with the Yankees on Tuesday, criticized the commissioner's ruling.

"Anytime a guy gets suspended for that length of time, it's excessive," said Raines, who is black. "It's a difficult question for me because I am one of those minority groups."

Precedent indicates that Rocker's suspension is likely to be reduced.

On July 26, 1971, defending AL batting champion Alex Johnson of the California Angels was suspended for failing to hustle. The decision was overturned an arbitrator who said Johnson had an emotional problem and should have been placed on the disabled list.

On Aug. 16, 1981, St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Garry Templeton was suspended and fined $5,000 after making a series of obscene gestures toward heckling fans at Busch Stadium. Two days later, an arbitrator ruled the suspension should be lifted when Templeton checked into a hospital for treatment of depression.

Templeton returned to hit .367 in the final three weeks of the season, regaining the respect of teammates who were shocked by his initial actions.

The Braves hope Rocker can follow that precedent.

"It's going to be kind of personal how he is received," Millwood said. "I'm sure he offended some guys in here more than he offended other guys. He could go up to one person and say he's sorry. But he's got a lot of people to say it to."

 More from ESPN...
Rocker suspended until May 1, fined

Rocker's appeal of suspension to start next Wednesday

Braves react to Rocker suspension

McAdam: Give Bud a break
It's too easy to once again ...

Response: Are fans turned off to sports?
It seems like athletes are ...

Gammons: John Rocker's story
To learn more about John ...

 Rocker speaks out
Controversial Braves reliever John Rocker talks with ESPN's Peter Gammons.

Bobby Cox says he knows John Rocker has suffered.
wav: 117 k | Listen

 Winning over
George Lombard thinks Rocker needs to restore faith with teammates.
wav: 163 k | Listen

 Tuff decision
Braves president Stan Kasten is comfortable with the commissioner's decision.
wav: 95 k | Listen

 Team moral
John Schuerholz wanted to see how Rocker's presence would affect the team.
wav: 506 k | Listen

 ESPN Tools
Email story
Most sent
Print story
Daily email