Mets Face Union Challenge Over Refusal to Pay Injured Francisco Rodriguez

The New York Mets are being challenged by the Major League Baseball Players Association over their decision to stop paying Francisco Rodriguez until his throwing hand heals.

The union filed a grievance on behalf of Rodriguez yesterday, one day after the Mets placed the relief pitcher on Major League Baseball’s Disqualified List and said they will convert his agreement to a “non-guaranteed contract.” The team said it won’t pay Rodriguez while he’s on the Disqualified List.

“Because the grievance alleges material breaches of Francisco’s contract (including non-payment of salary), the Basic Agreement requires that the matter be processed expeditiously,” the union said in an e-mailed statement. “No hearing date has been set.”

The Mets said they took action against Rodriguez because of “conduct in violation of his Uniform Player’s Contract.” In a statement issued last night, the team said it disagreed with the union’s position.

“We believe our action was justified and appropriate,” the Mets said.

Rodriguez had season-ending surgery two days ago to repair a torn ligament in the thumb of his throwing hand. He was injured during an altercation with 53-year-old Carlos Pena -- the grandfather of his children -- in the Mets’ family lounge after a game at Citi Field.

Assault Charge

Rodriguez is due in court next month on a charge of third- degree assault resulting from the incident, which followed New York’s 6-2 loss to Colorado on Aug. 11. He was also suspended for two games by the Mets after his arrest.

Rodriguez in 2008 signed a three-year contract with the Mets worth $37 million. He’s due a further $3 million this year and $11.5 million next year. The deal also includes a $17.5 million team option for 2012.

If the objective of the Mets is to try to void Rodriguez’s contract, it may struggle, Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer who has worked as outside counsel for baseball’s players’ union, said in an interview before the Mets announced their sanctions against the pitcher.

“If they pursue termination, I think the Mets case would be on doubtful grounds,” Kessler said.

Mets General Manager Omar Minaya said during a conference call two nights ago that the team wants Rodriguez back in the team next season.

A four-time All-Star, Rodriguez had 25 saves for the Mets this season along with a 4-2 record and a 2.20 earned run average.

Surgery performed by Andrew Weiland on Rodriguez at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City on Aug. 17 was successful, the Mets said.

Last night, the Mets won the third in a four-game series at the Houston Astros 3-2 in 14 innings. New York is in third place in the National League’s Eastern Division with a 60-60 record, 11 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves.

To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net; or Eben Novy-Williams in New York enovywilliam@bloomberg.net.

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