Major League Baseball fires arbitrator Shyam Das

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Shayam Das, the neutral third arbitrator who handles PED and other appeals, and who served at the pleasure of both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA, has been fired:

A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that baseball management has fired Shyam Das, the arbitrator who overturned Ryan Braun’s drug suspension in February.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because the decision had not been announced.

He has held the job since 1999. He was always able to be fired with written notice by either the league or the union.  The story is still developing, but it would not be a surprise to hear that he was fired by the league due to the Braun decision, which baseball officials lambasted at the time it was released.  Of course, as the linked article notes, he also serves as an arbitrator for the NFL — he’ll hear the New Orleans Saints bounty appeal this week — so maybe they think his plate is too full or want some fresh blood.

Whatever precipitated the league’s decision, however, this is a tricky business.  Baseball arbitrators, because they can be removed by either side, have no incentive to consciously or consistently favor one side or another.  At the same time, the league or the union have little incentive to remove an arbitrator for strategic reasons because the other side has the ability to do the same thing. This is part of why Das has been in place for 13 years. Everyone was basically happy with what is always a delicate balance.

But now things change.  So a qustion: does MLB think that Das had gone too far to the player’s side of things?  Do they think they’ll get more favorable decisions now that he’s gone?  Do they expect that the union will fire back or make life difficult for the league in hiring a new one or keeping him or her in place once hired?  Or is this just a case of change for change’s sake?

I would expect a statement from the league by the end of business today. That’s how they tend to roll with these things.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.