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Attorneys doubtful A-Rod can have suspension overturned

Alex Rodriguez runs to first base after drawing

Alex Rodriguez runs to first base after drawing a walk in the sixth inning of a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. (Aug. 22, 2013) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

What are Alex Rodriguez's chances of a federal court judge vacating the 162-game suspension imposed by baseball arbitrator Fredric Horowitz?

"A real long shot,'' said Manhattan attorney Jeffrey L. Kessler, who chairs the sports law division of Winston & Strawn. The legal community's belief that Horowitz would only slightly alter the 211-game suspension levied by Major League Baseball bolsters the opinion that the suit Rodriguez filed against MLB and the Players Association will gain little to no traction.

Based on its response to the earlier, pending suit filed against it by Rodriguez, MLB likely will also ask for this suit to be dismissed when it answers the complaint within the required 30 days. Motions likely would delay the judge's decision, and as the season approaches, Rodriguez's attorneys, a person familiar with their thinking said, will seek an injunction to allow A-Rod to be on the field Opening Day.

Rodriguez's complaint filed Monday contained a litany of reasons why the decision should be set aside. Chief among them were allegations that MLB paid for evidence, that the arbitrator was biased and that the union acted in "bad faith'' in representating A-Rod.

"The allegations that MLB may have purchased illegitimate evidence, that's just a bare bones allegation,'' Manhattan criminal defense attorney Todd Spodek said. "And the claim that the arbitrator had a disregard for the law, that he was partial to MLB, that's grounds to get it vacated, but it's a very high burden.''

As for the union's role, Spodek said, "I would say that is a weak argument on many levels . . . Even if some judge was to say the MLBPA didn't handle this correctly, it would be of no value since [Rodriguez] had his own attorneys there to handle it, as well.''

The suit also referenced Michael Weiner, the former executive director of the union who died of a brain tumor in November. Last summer, Weiner said he recommended Rodriguez settle for a lesser penalty if MLB were to offer one that was acceptable.

"I haven't seen anything at all to suggest wrongdoing by the union or Michael Weiner,'' Kessler said.

As for Rodriguez's issues with Horowitz, even if the court determined the arbitrator erred in his ruling, it would not necessarily help A-Rod's case, Baltimore sports law attorney P. Andrew Torrez said.

"Legal or factual errors on even what they call gross errors of law and fact are not a basis for overturning an arbitration award,'' he said. "Those allegations are not the type that typically rise to the level where a court is going to overturn an award.

"If there is really good evidence that we haven't seen, either as to real bias on the part of the head arbitrator or there is some evidence they can articulate that was uniquely possessed by Bud Selig that the panel refused to entertain, those are the only two roads I can see to getting it overturned. [Otherwise] the court won't even look at it, that's what the arbitration panel is for.

"That's what the Basic Agreement specifies, that you go to arbitration and that arbitrator's decision is 'full and final.' ''

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