DEC. 7: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the MLBPA filed a grievance against the Nationals on Papelbon’s behalf two days after the suspension was issued. The team considered the filing to be “obligatory,” and Rosenthal adds that it will be addressed this spring.
DEC. 6: Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon has filed a grievance against the Nationals challenging the team’s decision to impose a suspension without pay for the final four games of the 2015 season, WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford reports. Papelbon received the ban for his role in a dugout scuffle with star outfielder Bryce Harper.
Per the report, Papelbon and his representatives brought the action based on the position that the team lacked precedent for withholding Papelbon’s pay in relation to the suspension. Clearly, the dispute is about much more than the dollars involved, as those four games represented just over 2% (about $300K) of Papelbon’s $13MM total salary on the year.
The degree of ongoing animus between player and team remains unclear. But if nothing else the matter also raises issues of the broader relations between teams and players under the collective bargaining agreement. Those considerations are surely heightened given that negotiations on a new CBA are set to take place over the coming year.
Article XII of the CBA addresses disciplinary matters, providing that clubs have the authority to impose “disciplinary action for just cause.” While that section does not specifically authorize or forbid certain forms of punishment, it does contemplate both fines and suspensions resulting in lost salary (in providing that a team must make a player “whole” if the decision is overturned). A player subject to disciplinary action may challenge it through a grievance proceeding before an arbitral panel, which in turn must assess whether “just cause” existed for the punishment that was meted out.
The embattled reliever remains under contract in D.C. next year for $11MM, as part of the agreement he reached with the club when he was traded from the Phillies in July. He’s probably worth every penny as a player, as he continues to put up strong results at the back of the pen, but his issues off of the mound continue to mount.
Relations between Papelbon and the Nats were surely already strained, though we’ve heard varying accounts of the extent to which conciliation may be possible. It certainly seems likely that this dispute will only ratchet up tensions. Washington has, of course, been rumored to be weighing a trade of the veteran, though the market for his services remains rather cloudy.
Bradford adds that there’s no date for a hearing at present. It’s unclear whether there will be any possibility of negotiations to forestall further airing of the unfortunate matter.