By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005
BALTIMORE, Sept. 8 -- A week after the Baltimore Orioles placed Sidney Ponson on termination waivers, the Major League Baseball Players Association filed a grievance on behalf of the pitcher, saying his contract was improperly voided.
Ponson, who signed a three-year, $22.5 million contract prior to the 2004 season, is owed $10 million next season.
The Orioles responded to the union's grievance with a tersely worded statement from counsel H. Russell Smouse.
"The grievance filed today by the union is absolutely without merit," the statement read. "It will be vigorously defended by the Orioles and Major League Baseball as both the terms of the contract and the facts fully support the action which was taken by the club.
"Those facts speak to a history of a player who totally disregarded his contractual obligations and, as a result, was in clear breach of his contract and not in the physical condition to be a productive member of the club. The action taken by the club was thoroughly appropriate and indeed was compelled by the facts of the matter. Sidney Ponson's pattern of contempt for what can reasonably be expected of a Major League Baseball player is most disappointing."
If the Orioles and Ponson do not reach a settlement, arbitrator Shyam Das will listen to the case, which likely won't happen for a couple of months.
The Orioles believe Ponson violated paragraphs 7(b)(1), 7(b)(2), and 7(b)(3) of the uniform player's contract, which detail the behavior expected of a player and the proper physical conditioning a player should maintain. Ponson has been arrested three times since December in alcohol-related incidents, most recently for allegedly driving while intoxicated two weeks ago in Baltimore.
A victory by the Orioles in this case would be groundbreaking. Though other teams have tried in the past to void a contract, none has won a case heard by an arbitrator.