Will the MLBPA fire arbitrator Frederic Horowitz?

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The neutral third arbitrator who handles PED appeals, as well as grievances brought by players, serves at the pleasure of both Major League Baseball and the MLBPA. They can fire him for any reason. They can fire him for no reason. All that need happen is written notice from one side or the other.

We most recently saw this in 2012 when Shayam Das, the arbitrator who had been in place for 13 years, was fired by Major League Baseball. The reason? Their dissatisfaction with his ruling in the original Ryan Braun suspension and appeal, which baseball sharply criticized. Das’ firing led to the firing of Frederic Horowitz, who issued the ruling in the A-Rod case Saturday.

So: will the MLBPA fire Horowitz now? My guess is yes.

It’s not a slam dunk, of course. The MLBPA is in a slightly different position than was Major League Baseball at the time of the Das position. Yes, they opposed Horowitz’s ruling, but they also — according to the ruling itself — agreed with the manner in which Horowitz approached parts of his decision. Specifically, Horowitz claims the MLBPA agreed that his discipline should come at the Commissioner’s discretion under the “just cause” provisions of he JDA and not under the 50/100/lifetime ban provisions. And, of course, they are now being sued by Alex Rodriguez, placing them in an odd tactical position between MLB and the player.

But, the MLBPA’s concessions aside, the arbitrator did just hammer a player with more or less unprecedented discipline. For political purposes alone, one has to think that the union may want to retaliate for that and/or for MLB’s firing of Braun.

If I’m a betting man, I say that the union fires Horowitz within a week or so.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.