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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.