Rob Manfred, MLB's chief operating officer and Bud Selig's heir apparent as commissioner, plans to testify today at Alex Rodriguez's arbitration hearing. Jason has the full story: http://www.pinstripedbible.com/2013/10/16/4842898/biogenesis-rodriguez-appeal-hearing-manfred-yankees
While none of us knows what is going on inside the hearing room, this has developed into a fascinating chess match. Manfred's testimony is a strange development. Jason calls it unorthodox and that's fair. Risky is also fair.
The first problem is the obvious conflict of interest. Manfred is also a member of the arbitration panel. Having him testify and vote on the ultimate outcome is like having a witness deliberate on the jury deciding the case in which he/she testified. MLB undoubtedly feels this doesn't present a problem because of the makeup of the panel. Manfred, MLB's representative, is expected to be a knee-jerk vote to sustain the suspension, just as the Players' Association representative is expected to be a knee-jerk vote to reverse. Unanimity is not required and the vote of Frederic Horowitz, the independent panel member, is the only one that matters. However, having a panel member testify is the kind of thing that might give pause to a judge who later reviews the arbitration decision. Given Rodriguez's litigious nature, he will certainly try to bring any adverse decision to court.
The second issue is what Manfred will testify to.
News accounts suggest that he will defend MLB's Biogenesis investigation and rebut claims by Team A-Rod that MLB paid off witnesses, harassed witnesses and used various underhanded means to obtain evidence. That is interesting for several reasons.
First, it seems premature. MLB is still presenting its direct case and Team A-Rod has not yet begun to present its case. Team A-Rod's attacks on the MLB investigation have been made officially only in its lawsuit against MLB. It has not yet had the chance to present evidence at the hearing to support these claims. It seems odd that Manfred would rebut these claims before they are formally presented at the hearing. It would seem to make more sense to wait until Team A-Rod presents its evidence and then have Manfred testify as a rebuttal witness. That way, he can rebut the precise evidence that Team A-Rod presents, not what he thinks it might present. However, the explanation may be that Anthony Bosch's testimony has already showed that MLB investigators behaved badly and, thus, the issue may have already been joined.
Second, what he will testify to?
There is no indication that Manfred was present in Florida when MLB investigators interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence. In fact, he may have kept himself away to have deniability in case any of the investigators stepped out of line or because he felt his job was to supervise, not to personally investigate. His testimony will undoubtedly rely on oral and written reports from these investigators. Thus, he has no first-hand knowledge and his testimony will be hearsay. MLB's arbitration rules permit hearsay but that doesn't mean that Horowitz will find it reliable because hearsay is generally not considered as persuasive as first-hand knowledge. MLB may see this as an acceptable risk because by having Manfred testify, it keeps its investigators off the stand and away from cross-examination by Team A-Rod. MLB may feel that their testimony would play into Rodriguez's hands by shifting the focus from PED use to the way this investigation was conducted.
Another theory is that Manfred will explain Selig's reasoning in imposing this 211-game suspension and show that his decision was not part of an anti-Rodriguez vendetta. The trouble is that only Selig knows what motivated his decision. While Manfred undoubtedly was heavily involved in the decision-making process, he doesn't know what was inside Selig's head. However, by having Manfred testify, it avoids putting Selig on the stand and subjecting him to cross-examination. As his lawsuit against MLB shows, Rodriguez wants to put Selig in his cross-hairs. Manfred may be taking a bullet for Selig.
The final issue is the gag ordered that Horowitz issued. So far, it seems to have worked. There have been leaks, but none have been especially inflammatory. Sure, the Tacopina-Ayala confrontation was juicy but it had nothing to do with Rodriguez's guilt or innocence. Manfred's testimony will be especially juicy, especially if the cross-examination turns nasty. For the first time, the hearing record will include things that Rodriguez might want to see in print. Let's see how well the gag order holds up then.