Atlanta Braves: CBA limits club options for dealing with Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna, former outfielder of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Marcell Ozuna, former outfielder of the Atlanta Braves. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves fans want to void Marcell Ozuna’s contract, but a past attempt to terminate LaMarr Hoyt failed in arbitration. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

A little history

Generally speaking, collectively bargained agreements are considered sacrosanct by federal courts. Collective bargaining agreements contain mandated arbitration procedures for situations when disputes arise and it’s binding arbitration.

Does the name LaMarr Hoyt ring a bell? Following a successful 1985 season, Hoyt was arrested twice in the first two months of 1986, went into rehab, had a forgettable season, was arrested again after the season, and spent 45 days in jail.

Commissioner Peter Ueberroth suspended him, and the team tried to void the contract.

"after Hoyt’s second border arrest, Smith decided the pitcher was a cocaine user. The Padres unilaterally voided Hoyt’s three-year, $3 million deal, and released him. Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth piled on, suspending Hoyt for the entire 1987 [season]."

The arbiter reduced the suspension to 60-days and ordered the Padres to reinstate him, reasoning that the team hadn’t done enough to help Hoyt, who — despite attending rehab — called Hoyt a ‘missuser’ [sic] and not an abuser of drugs.

As Ken Rosenthal noted in his post for The Athletic (subscription required),  two cases where a club sought to terminate a contract or invoke a clause in the contract restricting off-field activity, both involving the Mets, were settled through arbitration. Neither resulted in an outright win for the team; the Mets reduced their liability slightly but still paid most of both contracts.

Can the Atlanta Braves sue?

I’ve heard and taken part in a lot of discussions regarding the Atlanta Braves potentially filing suit to have the contract voided.  I find the option unlikely because, as I noted above, arbitration is binding on both sides.  In any case, taking this to court probably distasteful to the team and MLB.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has statutory jurisdiction over private-sector employers who take part in interstate commerce.  MLB’s anti-trust exemption is based on the principle that it doesn’t conduct interstate commerce. Does that mean the NLRB is out of the picture? Does MLB want to find out? Probably not.

When Ozuna’s cast comes off and medically cleared, it’s reasonable to assume that the Commissioner will put him on Administrative Leave and that the union will allow MLB to extend the leave as long as necessary; they’ve done it in serious cases in the past and want no part in publicly supporting a player charged with spousal abuse until the legal system’s run its course.