Serving at the pleasure of MLB and the MLB Players Union, Das could have been fired with written notice by either side at any point over the last thirteen years. While we don’t know the cause for MLB’s action quite yet, it’s not the farthest leap of assumption to imagine it has something to do with the controversial Braun decision.
At the time, MLB’s vice president of labor relations, Rob Manfred, issued this statement:
Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.
As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.
So, in many ways the writing was on the wall, but as Craig Calcaterra at HardBall Talk points out, baseball arbitrators are a part of a delicate balance.
Baseball arbitrators, because they can be removed by either side, have no incentive to consciously or consistently favor one side or another. At the same time, the league or the union have little incentive to remove an arbitrator for strategic reasons because the other side has the ability to do the same thing.
Das was once the only MLB arbitrator assigned solely to hear grievances between MLB and MLBPA. Those two sides will now try to select a successor. If they cannot agree, the collective bargaining agreement calls for the American Arbitration Association to provide a list of “prominent, professional arbitrators.” The sides would then alternate striking names from the list until one remains. I’m certain ESPN is preparing a bid to win coverage of such an exciting event.