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Judge Selig has plenty of cases

| Friday, Dec. 14, 2007

NEW YORK -- George Mitchell linked dozens of players to the illegal use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Now it's up to commissioner Bud Selig to determine his version of baseball justice.

Lawyers in the commissioner's office will have to sort through Mitchell's report and determine whether any of the active players deserve punishment. That process certainly will spill into next year.

"We have approached these cases by looking at the period of time during which the conduct occurred and what our policy looked like for that point in time," Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said after Mitchell's report was released Thursday.

It is highly unlikely players will be disciplined for conduct before Sept. 30, 2002, when the management-union drug policy began.

Complicating any discipline are three different drug policies that call for different penalties. The first covered 2003-2004, the second 2005 and the third 2006 until now.

Add in that human growth hormone wasn't banned until January 2005, and it's enough to create a labor lawyer's version of sabermetrics. Right now, baseball doesn't even have a timetable for figuring out what's ahead.

"As soon as we have a chance to digest the report, we'll have a better handle on that," said Bob DuPuy, baseball's chief operating officer.

Mitchell equivocated on whether he thought players should be punished.

"I urge the commissioner to forego imposing discipline on players for past violations of baseball's rules on performance-enhancing substances, including players named in this report," he said.

And then he backtracked, adding: "except in those cases where he determines that the conduct is so serious that discipline is necessary to maintain the integrity of the game."

Selig left open the possibility of penalties.

"I'm going to review his findings and the factual support for those findings, and punishment will then be determined on a case-by-case basis," he said. "I will take action when I believe it's appropriate."

Selig might even discipline management.

"I will also review the comments made by Sen. Mitchell about club personnel and will take appropriate action," he said.

Baseball already has shown how it might handle players. Last week, Baltimore's Jay Gibbons and Kansas City's Jose Guillen were both suspended for the first 15 days of next season. They were linked to HGH possession in 2005 in media reports of an investigation by the Albany district attorney.

The 15-day penalties matched what a second offense would have drawn under 2003-04 rules. Gibbons accepted his penalty, and Guillen instructed the players' association to file a grievance.

Gary Matthews Jr., Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and Scott Schoeneweis also were linked to HGH, but baseball decided there was "insufficient evidence" to determine they committed a doping violation. They were accused of receiving performance-enhancing drugs before 2005.

Baseball hasn't said what it's doing with Paul Byrd or Jerry Hairston Jr.

Any player baseball wants to penalize likely will first be asked to meet with baseball's labor lawyers.

"Obviously we have a standard articulated in the Basic Agreement. We have to have 'just cause' for any disciplinary action that we take," Manfred said. "We'll review the available evidence to determine how it fits under the policies and whether we can defend the discipline as consistent with the 'just cause' provision."

Players' association head Donald Fehr said the union could fight penalties. Grievances are to be decided by arbitrator Shyam Das.

"Senator Mitchell's suggestion that players not be disciplined is welcome," Fehr said. "However, we will make certain that should any player be disciplined, he will have a right to a hearing and the full panoply of due process protections our agreements contemplate, and we will represent him in that process."

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