Mientkiewicz-Red Sox ball dispute heads to arbitration

NEW YORK -- Doug Mientkiewicz and the Red Sox are going to arbitration to decide who owns the ball from the final out of Boston's 2004 World Series victory.

On the same day Mientkiewicz finalized a contract with the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox agreed to dismiss the lawsuit they filed last month asking for the Suffolk Superior Court in Massachusetts to order that the ball be returned to the team.

Instead, the commissioner's office filed a grievance Friday. Unless settled, the case will be heard by arbitrator Shyam Das.

"MLB and the players association jointly decided that this
matter would be best handled by the existing arbitration mechanism
of baseball, a decision in which we concurred," Red Sox president
Larry Lucchino said. "It also offers prompter resolution."

"The grievance asserts Mr. Mientkiewicz has no ownership interest in the ball," management lawyer Frank Coonelly said.

Mientkiewicz was the Red Sox first baseman when pitcher Keith Foulke threw the ball to him on Oct. 27, 2004, for the final out of Boston's four-game sweep of St. Louis, the first Series title for the Red Sox since 1918.

Mientkiewicz took the ball with him and, after the team asked for it back, he agreed last January to loan the special sphere to the club for a year. The players' association said as part of Friday's agreement, Mientkiewicz waived a provision requiring the Red Sox to return the ball to Mientkiewicz by Jan. 1.

"The players' association strongly believed that this dispute belonged in the grievance procedure," union general counsel Michael Weiner said.

Management and union lawyers will meet to schedule a hearing date for the grievance.

Mientkiewicz's agent, Greg Landry, declined comment.

Mientkiewicz was traded to the New York Mets last offseason and had a terrible year. Bothered by a hamstring injury, he hit .240 with 11 homers and 29 RBI in 275 at-bats.

His deal with the Royals calls for a $1.85 million salary and gives him the chance to earn $700,000 in performance bonuses.