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Union Files Appeal on Guillen's Behalf

September 28, 2004|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Major League Baseball Players Assn., contending the Angels' suspension of left fielder Jose Guillen for the rest of the season and postseason without pay was too harsh, filed a grievance Monday in an effort to have the suspension overturned.

MLB lawyer Frank Coonelly will present the Angels' case before independent arbitrator Shyam Das on Friday in Oakland, the day the Angels begin a season-ending series against the A's that could determine the American League West championship.

Guillen and his agent, Adam Katz, Angel General Manager Bill Stoneman and Manager Mike Scioscia, and a union official are expected to attend the hearing, which was expedited because of Guillen's desire to be reinstated before the regular season ends Sunday.

It is rare, however, for Das to rule immediately on such matters, and Coonelly wouldn't predict whether the arbitrator would have a decision Friday.

"I'm sure the union will ask for that, but I don't know if [Das] will feel he's in a position to respond that quickly," Coonelly said. "It's unusual for an arbitrator to make a decision from the bench, and I can't recall it ever happening."

Guillen, who was batting .294 with 27 home runs and a career-high 104 runs batted in, was punished Sunday for his reaction to getting pulled from Saturday's game against the A's for a pinch-runner with the score tied, 3-3, in the eighth inning.

Guillen threw his arms into the air at first base, walked slowly to the dugout, tossed his helmet in Scioscia's direction and fired his glove into the dugout wall, a public tirade in which the Angels thought Guillen showed up his manager and put his interests ahead of the team.

According to several sources, Scioscia confronted Guillen in the clubhouse after the game, but Guillen refused to discuss the incident with his manager. The two then got into a heated argument before several players and coaches intervened, but, contrary to several broadcast reports, no punches were thrown.

Guillen did not return several calls Monday, and Katz, his agent, declined to comment.

"I don't want to go into detail," said Scioscia, who spoke with Guillen by phone later Sunday night, "but [the suspension] was not just because of what happened on the field and in the dugout."

While meeting with Guillen on Sunday, Scioscia said "there was remorse," but he added that Guillen "did not initiate any apology."

Coonelly, who operates out of the commissioner's office in New York and regularly deals with disciplinary issues, said he discussed the Guillen situation with the Angels before they took action and thinks "they made an appropriate decision within the framework of baseball's rules."

According to major league rules and language in the standard player contract, a club may suspend a player without pay for up to 30 days for insubordination or other misconduct.

"The Angels indicated during our discussions that there had been other misconduct by the player during the course of the season and that was taken into account in determining the appropriate decision," Coonelly said.

Scioscia and Stoneman acknowledged there was a "cumulative" nature to Guillen's punishment, Scioscia adding Monday that Guillen's conduct over the weekend was "the final straw."

Added Stoneman: "Jose's conduct after being pulled for the pinch-runner was the bulk of it, but I will acknowledge that other things, some public, some not, have happened."

After three Angel batters were hit by pitches in a May 24 game at Toronto, Guillen, who was hit in the ribs by a Justin Miller fastball that night, ripped Angel pitchers for not retaliating by hitting Blue Jay batters.

In another incident, in July, Guillen told reporters he did not attend a players' meeting, even though he did, leaving many with the insinuation that Guillen believed the meeting was pointless. Scioscia also reportedly benched Guillen for a July 18 game against Boston for skipping a photo-day session.

"Jose was disciplined at times this season," Scioscia said. "We'll leave it at that."

Sunday, though, Scioscia said no incident involving Guillen "became serious enough of a distraction that the team lost focus."

Guillen and his representatives are expected to argue that previous incidents cannot be used to support the suspension; that Guillen came to the park every day, played hard, played hurt, and, outside of a few emotional outbursts, was an exemplary player. They will also argue that the penalty for such an infraction is unprecedented and unwarranted.

"We all know he's an intense guy, but I haven't seen anything that would lead to this," Angel catcher Bengie Molina said. "He talks to everyone, jokes with everyone. If he had a problems, they were hidden well from me."

Guillen, in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him $2.2 million this season and guarantees him $3.5 million next season, might also argue that the suspension is a breach of his contract and that he should be allowed to become a free agent this winter.

Do the Angels believe Guillen's punishment was too severe?

"I haven't got that sense at all," pitcher Jarrod Washburn said. "I think everyone in here supports the decision of the manager, the general manager and the owner. If they felt it was the right thing to do, everyone supports it 100%."

Scioscia, asked what he would do if the arbitrator reinstated Guillen immediately, said, "We'd take him back." He would not say whether he would play Guillen, though.

Times staff writer Ross Newhan contributed to this report.

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