BALTIMORE — Roberto Alomar on Wednesday dropped his appeal of his five-game suspension for spitting in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck, which probably will send umpires and major league baseball back to court.
Umpires voted Monday to boycott postseason games over what they considered lenient punishment against Alomar, an all-star second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles.
They agreed in federal court to work games Tuesday, Wednesday and today if a hearing was held by American League President Gene Budig. But Budig called off today's hearing and Alomar will begin serving his suspension at the start of the 1997 season, the league said.
No player has ever served a suspension during postseason play, even for an infraction that happened during the playoffs.
Lawyers for the umpires and baseball are now likely to be back in court in Philadelphia on Friday. If the umpires choose to boycott in violation of their bargaining contract, baseball is expected to seek an injunction that could ultimately lead to financial penalties for their union and individual firings. However, umpire Tim Tschida said his group is not willing to back down from their threat to boycott.
"Absolutely," he said. "There's a chance of it [striking], unfortunately. We're not looking to run this league, we're looking for the people who are supposed to run it to run it."
Umpire Drew Coble wasn't sure a boycott was the right thing to do at this point, however.
"I don't like the situation that's arisen," Coble said. "Something has to be done before it gets out of hand. I'm not sure some of these measures are justified."
Donald Fehr, head of the players' union, said there is no written stipulation in baseball's collective bargaining agreement that prevents a regular-season suspension from being served in the postseason.
But Fehr, who held an impromptu press conference at Yankee Stadium, also said there is no precedent for such an action, and that precedent is binding.
"There has never been a regular-season suspension that carries over into the postseason; we don't think the agreement provides for it," Fehr said. "And I think we would have prevailed [in a hearing] if they had tried to do that. . . . I don't believe [a change in Budig's ruling] would have held up."
With Wednesday night's action, the players union has essentially bowed out of the controversy, leaving management and the umpires union to battle it out. Fehr said it's time for baseball to move on.
"Basically, [Alomar] has reached out his hand, and hopefully we can put this to rest," Fehr said.
Budig was satisfied with Alomar's apology and contribution of $50,000 for needed ALD Research. Meanwhile, a source told The Times that Bud Selig, acting baseball commissioner, plans to hold a "code of conduct summit" with representatives of the players' and umpires' unions after the World Series to address problems with suspensions and appeals.
The players' union has agreed to attend, but the umpires' union so far has not.
Times staff writers Ross Newhan and Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this story.