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.

Astros greeted with boos in first spring training game

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The Astros and Nationals share a spring training facility, so it was only natural that they would open Grapefruit League play together. The Astros were the home team. Here’s the lineup they rolled out.

Teams typically include at least a few regulars in their spring training lineups as a courtesy to the fans, who are spending money to see big league players play baseball. This is especially the case for home games. However, the Astros have decided to roll out a lineup with a combined 323 MLB plate appearances.

There might be a reason for that. Houston was lustily booed as they took the field. This was after running a video on the scoreboard celebrating their 2019 AL championship.

That’s all with the team that beat them in the World Series (and is widely regarded as baseball’s current heroes for beating the big bad cheating Astros) in the other dugout, of course. Nationals starter Max Scherzer has not thrown at any Houston player, and the game is now in a rain delay. But it seems like the Astros decided to spare their players from some possible rough treatment, both from fans and opposing pitchers.

The same could not be said for Astros mascot Orbit, who was also booed.

One can quibble with the merits of booing a bunch of players who have barely touched the big leagues because you’re mad at Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, but sports fandom is something of an irrational business. Fans are going to want their pound of flesh, especially when they paid for the right to be in the ballpark and give the Astros a piece of their mind. Some of them even brought props! This is just how it all works, unfortunately. If you’re in an Astros uniform, you’re probably going to get booed.

Welcome to the 2020 season, Astros. It’s probably going to be like this all year.

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