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Saturday, May 09, 2009
On Being Manny, Part II (the sequel): Can the Dodgers Terminate Ramirez?

There have been a lot of questions raised (including in the comments of the previous post) about the possibility of the Dodgers suspending or terminating Manny Ramirez for his use of human chorionic gonadotrophin (“hCG”). I think it’s fairly clear, however, that the Dodgers cannot punish or terminate Ramirez for his use of the banned performance enhancing substance.

It is certainly true, as many have pointed out, that the Major League Baseball standard player contract contains a broad morals clause. The provision, section 7(b), states that

The Club may terminate this contract upon written notice to the Player (but only after requesting and obtaining waivers of this contract from all other Major League Clubs) if the Player shall at any time: (1) fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class.

The standard player contract also contains a “loyalty” clause, which states that:

The Player agrees to perform his services hereunder diligently and faithfully, to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the Club’s training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the Club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship.

Does use of a banned female fertility drug conform to the “standards of good citizenship”? Does it “conform to high standards of personal conduct”? Maybe, maybe not, but the answer is irrelevant. This is unlikely to lead to any man (or woman) of the year awards for Ramirez, but the MLB Program explicitly forbids teams from taking any action against a player for use of a banned substance: “No Club may take any disciplinary or adverse action against a Player (including but not limited to a fine, suspension, or any adverse action pursuant to a Uniform Player’s Contract) because of a Player’s violation of the Program.” Instead, the Program vests the Commissioner with the exclusive authority to discipline players for violations. Despite the broad language of the MLB standard player contract, the specific language of the MLB Program will control. So, we should not expect to see any disciplinary action from the Dodgers.


why does it control? Where does it say or has it been said that the agreement controls?

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/09/2009 6:51 PM  

I think the answer is pretty simple Anon, a contract clause that goes against MLB rules is void or otherwise unenforceable. Think of it like a law contrary to public interest. At least thats how I look at it.

Blogger Jimmy H -- 5/11/2009 6:14 AM  

They can't terminate him for use of a banned substance, but could he be terminated for some related conduct? (e.g. lying about it, if he did, a la Bill Clinton?)
Also, the club can't take action against him, but could he theoretically be sued by some other person or entity who sustained a serious loss as a result of his breach of conduct?

Just wondering...

OpenID nurseandlawyer -- 5/11/2009 5:11 PM  

its an agreement in which he broke, but he is not being punished for?? I think he is guilty of lying about his use, but why can he get away with this, but an everyday person who breached a contract like this would be terminate.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 5/11/2009 7:52 PM  

Anon 6:51- Good question.

Jimmy H-- Good answer. I'd also add that as a general principle of contract interpretation, a specific clause (such as contained in the drug policy) controls the general (such as contained in the uniform player contract).

Nurseandlawyer-- Yes, in theory, he could be terminated for any related conduct that did not conform to the "standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship." So, if he had been interviewed on national television and denied taking steroids, then tested positive and admitted that he had lied (see, e.g., A-Rod), one could make an argument that he violated the morals clause. As for your second question, I'll give you a quick answer now, and a longer answer later. Quick answer: Assuming he didn't have a contractual relationship with that person or entity, very unlikely.

Anonymous Gabe Feldman -- 5/12/2009 12:58 AM  

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