The Major League Baseball Players Association has filed a grievance against the Los Angeles Dodgers, claiming that owner Peter O'Malley showed no "just cause" for fining relief pitcher Steve Howe $54,000 for undergoing a second treatment for cocaine dependency.
Howe was fined one month's salary on June 29, shortly after returning from one month in the CareUnit Hospital in Orange County, Calif., for treatment of chemical dependency on cocaine. Howe's first treatment for drug use occurred last winter.
The players association charges that the Dodgers have violated the collective bargaining agreement, specifically Section 11-A, which says, " . . . a player may be subjected to disciplinary action for just cause by his club, league, or the commissioner. Therefore, in grievances regarding discipline, the issue to be resolved shall be whether there has been just cause for the penalty imposed."
"Our position is that the fine was unjust," said Nancy Broff, counsel for the players association. "The fine went beyond the power of the Dodgers."
The Dodgers believe "we acted properly and will respond accordingly," according to Bob Walker, team counsel.
Walker had neither heard of nor seen the grievance. "Frankly, I didn't know what they'd do," he said.
The Dodgers have 10 working days to respond to the grievance. Broff expects that the team will not rescind the fine.
The grievance then would go to the owners' Player Relations Committee. Broff does not believe that the PRC will overturn the fine.
The final step in the grievance process is arbitrator Raymond Goetz, who hears disputes between players and the owners.
A decision by Goetz would not be forthcoming for several months. "The Howe case won't be settled for a long time because we have a backlog of other grievances," said Broff. "We can't get to this one yet."
Broff also noted that the hearing before the arbitrator requires free schedules for Goetz, the lawyers for both sides, and the witnesses. "It will be difficult to schedule," Broff said.