Faced with the possibility that the Alex Rodriguez trade will not take place because the Major League Players Association rejected the restructuring of Rodriguez's landmark contract by the Red Sox, Major League Baseball's top labor lawyer said last night that commissioner Bud Selig may legally challenge the union's right to do so.
If Selig approves the reworking of the contract of sports' highest-paid player over the objections expressed by union lawyer Gene Orza, the matter could wind up before an independent arbitrator, a legal process that could take weeks and cause chaos for the teams and players involved
Still, as Bill Madden reports in The Daily News, the long-anticipated trade is likely to be completed by today's 5 p.m. deadline:
A baseball person with knowledge of the internal workings of the deal predicted the teams will get it done, if only because they have to. "I can't believe the Red Sox, after all the tumult they've caused in Boston with Nomar, plus all of A-Rod's publicly campaigning for Nomar's job, aren't going to go through with this thing. There's been just too much damage done to go back now."
An executive from one of the teams said that the development, though disappointing because it created another obstacle, would not kill discussions and that the trade was still possible. "I think there's too much wanting to get this done on both sides for it to die," he said. But before the Red Sox or the Rangers do anything, they will probably wait to see what Selig does. An official from the commissioner's office described Selig as being incensed at the union and said he was investigating his legal options. If Selig approves the trade, the union will most likely file a grievance and the issue will be settled by an arbitrator.
Meanwhile, in the Bronx, Joe Torre joined Brian Cashman in welcoming Gary Sheffield to the big city. Torre was asked if he was concerned over the prospect of dealing with high-profile malcontents like Sheffield, Brown and Lofton. His response was typical:
"My job is going to be tough enough, not because of the new acquisitions of guys who are supposedly tough to handle," Torre said. "When you go in and you have new people, you see what you have. Will my job be tougher? You never know that. I certainly don't think it's fair to the players that we're getting to all of a sudden put a wary eye out."
Joel Sherman spoke with Jim Leyland, who managed Kevin Brown and Sheffield on the star-studded Marlins championship team in 1997:
"Those two guys are professionals," Leyland said by phone from his Pittsburgh home. "I don't give a [bleep] what anyone else says. And they are going to have the perfect manager for them in Joe Torre because his strength is communication and all those guys want to do is win."
..."I love Gary Sheffield. I heard the gossip about him, but I am telling you he is ready to play and one of the best clubhouse guys I've ever had. Joe Torre and Gary Sheffield will be a great marriage."
The Yankees are stacked, there is no doubt about it. Then again, as Tom Verducci reports, so is Boston. All eyes are now on the Red Sox and Texas, the Union and Bug Selig, as they attempt to get this deal done by this evening. I would be surprised if it didn't happen.