Monday, October 3, 2011

Demotion as Discipline: Learning to be a "Big Leaguer"

Florida Marlins' twenty-four-year-old, up-and-coming star, Logan Morrison was sent down to the minor leagues right after a game where he batted third in the lineup. Marlin brass told Lo Mo Morrison (LoMo) that he was being sent down for "baseball reasons" and cited his .240 batting average as evidence.  However, two days after being recalled, Morrison and the MLB Players' Association (MLBPA) filed a grievance against the Florida Marlin for what they see as a wrongful demotion.
Morrison believes that his demotion to AAA New Orleans was a form of discipline without just cause.  At the time,  LoMo was second on the Marlins in OPS, second in home runs, and third in runs batted in.  Additionally, the demotion came the day after LoMo missed a team meet and greet with Marlin season ticket holders.  LoMo had asked his Union Representative, Wes Helms, if he could miss the event, at which Helms replied that it was ok for him to miss.  Helms was released the next day; (perhaps due to his part in the ordeal in giving faulty advice).  Moreover, Larry Beinfest, Marlin President of Baseball Operations commented to the press that LoMo needed some more education on "being a major leaguer."

So the question remains, when can a major league player who has minor league options remaining be sent down to the minor leagues?  For that answer, let's turn to the text of the MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  Nothing under Article XIX--Assignment of Player Contracts;  Article XX--Reserve System; nor Article XXI--Credited Major League Service have any protocols in regards to when and if a player with LoMo's pre-free agency service time can be demoted.    In fact, and most likely to LoMo's chagrin, Article XXII--Management Rights states:
Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to restrict the rights of the Clubs to manage and direct their operations in any manner what- soever except as specifically limited by the terms of this Agreement.
The Marlins and Beinfest will likely argue that this part of the CBA governs this type of grievance and that they are allowed to make player personnel decisions, including demoting a player for any reason, including bad behavior as long as it is baseball related and does not infringe on any other part of the CBA.  Here, the Marlins could argue that not only is conduct on the field baseball related but that a player has obligations to attend team events such as the meet and greet. Note that LoMo had already been notified several times of behavior that the Marlins did not appreciate, such as publicly criticizing San Francisco Giants GM Brian Sabean for comments Sabean made regarding his teammate who took out Giant Catcher Buster Posey; LoMo's comments about owner Geoffrey Loria in the wake of hitting coach John Mallee's firing; LoMo's confrontation of star shortstop Hanley Ramirez; and lastly for a slew of tweets that the Marlins found to be distasteful.

To counter this argument, LoMo has quite a mountain to climb.  First, he will need to prove that his demotion was not baseball related and was actually discipline for him missing the meet and greet.  Second, if LoMo proves that the demotion was disciplinary, than he will need to prove that he was disciplined without just cause or prove that the Marlins went outside the scope of discipline since a player can only be fined or suspended for disciplinary reasons; not demoted. "Just Cause" is not defined in the CBA, but the grievance procedure can be found under Article XI-Grievance Procedure, and all things related to discipline including "Just Cause" are found under Article XII--Discipline.

If LoMo is successful in his grievance arbitration, he will be made whole and be entitled to lost wages and pay, plus interest.  However LoMo claims it is not about the money and that he is just protecting his rights.
"I'm doing it just not for myself but for other players," Morrison said. "I didn't want to file a grievance, but it happened. I want to put it in the past and move on. But you've got to take a stand somewhere and based on the guidance of my agent and the players' association, I filed this grievance. Now I just want to move on and play baseball. 
So what do you think?  Was LoMo demoted for "baseball" reasons or baseball reasons?  Can anyone think of any other players who were demoted to learn how to be a "major leaguer"--- attitude problems?   

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