Union files grievance over Ponson's termination

BALTIMORE -- The baseball players' association filed a
grievance Thursday claiming the Baltimore Orioles improperly
terminated the contract of Sidney Ponson this week and that the
pitcher is due the remaining $11 million called for in his deal.

Baltimore said Sept. 1 it would release Ponson and void the
remainder of his three-year contract, a move announced a week after
he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Ponson
cleared waivers, and the termination was effective after Tuesday's
games, according to the grievance.

The union claimed in the grievance that the Orioles' termination
"constitutes discipline without just cause." It also contended
that an addendum in Ponson's contract allowing the team to convert
it to a nonguaranteed deal was not authorized under baseball's
collective bargaining agreement and was the result of a "concerted
effort by the clubs."

Frank Coonelly, a lawyer in the commissioner's office, defended
the Orioles' actions.

"The conversion rights included in Mr. Ponson's guarantee
clause were the product of individual negotiations between Mr.
Ponson's representative and the Orioles. Those rights are fully
enforceable under the Basic Agreement," he said. "These
conversion rights are no more the product of concerted action than
are any of the other portions of the guarantee clause negotiated by
Mr. Ponson's representative. It is indeed odd that Mr. Ponson's
representative would assert that part of the guarantee clause is
unenforceable in the same case in which he is attempting to enforce
other aspects of that same clause."

The grievance also accuses the Orioles of relying on
"confidential information improperly obtained from club medical
personnel." However, according to the UPC, clubs have access to
"relevant medical information pertaining to that player."

The Orioles maintain the grievance is without basis. General
counsel H. Russell Smouse issued a statement saying Ponson,
"committed serious and material breaches of that contract. In
addition, termination was here appropriate because the player's
misconduct rendered him unable to perform his services in a
competitive manner."

The August arrest of Ponson, 28, was his second this year. He
was also charged in January with driving under the influence in
Florida. And he spent 11 days in an Aruban jail after he hit a
judge during a Christmas Day fight at a beach in his home country.

Smouse said the grievance "will be vigorously defended by the
Orioles and Major League Baseball as both the terms of the contract
and the facts fully support the action which was taken by the club.
Those facts speak to a history of a player who totally disregarded
his contractual obligations and, as a result, was in clear breach
of his contract and not in the physical condition to be a
productive member of the club."

Ponson's weight has been one of the Orioles' main concerns in
the past, but it was not clear what physical issues Smouse was
referring to.

"Sidney Ponson's pattern of contempt for what can reasonably be
expected of a Major League Baseball player is most disappointing,"
Smouse concluded.

Ponson agent Barry Praver said, "The grievance speaks for

Ponson was making $7.5 million this season under a $22.5
million, three-year contract, meaning he was owed $1,065,574 for
the remainder of this season. He was due to be paid $10 million
next year, with $3 million of his 2006 salary deferred and
scheduled to be paid in equal installments on June 1, 2007, and
June 1, 2008.

Unless settled, the case will be heard by arbitrator Shyam Das.