Major League Baseball asked a judge to sanction a former spokesman for New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, claiming he’s dragging his feet to avoid turning over documents subpoenaed in an arbitration over the player’s alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Major League Baseball yesterday asked U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in Manhattan to impose a “substantial fine” for contempt of court on the former spokesman, Michael Sitrick, the founder and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles-based public relations firm Sitrick & Co. The organization claimed Sitrick is trying to delay producing the material until it’s too late for it to be used in the ballplayer’s arbitration.
Rodriguez is appealing a 211-game suspension over allegations he used performance-enhancing drugs obtained from Anthony Bosch and his Coral Gables, Florida-based clinic, Biogenesis of America. Major League Baseball is seeking to force Sitrick to turn over any records he or the company may have related to Bosch and Biogenesis for use in the arbitration.
“The application for a stay is just one of the many roadblocks that Mr. Sitrick and Mr. Rodriguez have placed in MLB’s path in their joint effort to prevent MLB from obtaining and submitting to the arbitration panel evidence that the panel should consider in reaching a decision with respect to Mr. Rodriguez’s appeal of his suspension,” Major League Baseball said in its court filing.
“Mr. Sitrick is not in contempt of the court’s order,” Gayle Klein, a lawyer for Sitrick, said in an e-mailed statement.
Sitrick was subpoenaed in September in connection with Rodriguez’s arbitration. Ramos narrowed the subpoena Nov. 22 and ordered Sitrick to comply with the request for documents. Major League Baseball yesterday opposed Sitrick’s request that Ramos delay enforcing the order while he appeals.
In a court filing today, Sitrick’s lawyers asked that the Nov. 22 order be put on hold during an appeal. They said Sitrick was likely to win his appeal and the commissioner’s request was an attempt to pressure him to answer questions when he wasn’t obligated to do so.
“Given the baseless nature of the contempt motion (and the intended resulting flurry of press), Mr. Sitrick believes the commissioner filed the contempt motion and sought sanctions as a means to to generate publicity,” according to the filing.
Major League Baseball claimed the material it’s seeking from Sitrick may show that people working for Rodriguez interfered with its investigation by leaking Biogenesis documents to Yahoo Sports.
“If, as MLB suspects, the documents and information sought from Sitrick establish that Mr. Rodriguez or his representatives had possession of the Bosch/Biogenesis records in late January or early February 2013 -– at a time when MLB was unable to obtain those records –- that would be significant evidence in support of the obstruction charge,” Major League Baseball said in its court filing.
Jordan Siev, a lawyer for Rodriguez, declined to comment on the claims by Major League baseball.
Witness testimony in Rodriguez’s arbitration, in New York, was closed Nov. 21, Major League Baseball said in its papers. The arbitration panel will consider reopening the record if Sitrick responds to the subpoena soon, according to the filing.
New York Office
“If Mr. Sitrick’s compliance is not secured immediately, he will have succeeded, as a practical matter, in circumventing this court’s order,” the organization argued.
Sitrick had claimed the subpoena was served improperly at his firm’s New York office and that it would be unfair to force him to testify in New York. Two Sitrick & Co. employees who answered the telephone in Los Angeles and New York said he was working in New York yesterday.
“We have acknowledged from the outset of these proceedings that Mr. Sitrick occasionally visits his office in New York on client business when they require his presence,” Klein, his lawyer, said in the e-mailed statement. “We obviously do not think this fact undercuts any of his arguments.”
Sitrick said in court papers that he has never spoken to Yahoo Sports on Rodriguez’s behalf and that he was hired in January by a law firm representing Rodriguez as part of their legal representation of the ballplayer.
Rodriguez is separately suing Major League Baseball, claiming the organization is improperly trying to ruin his reputation and career. In a hearing last month, Siev argued the organization is trying to “get Mr. Rodriguez at all costs.” In court papers filed last month, Rodriguez argued that even if Sitrick has the documents, they’re not relevant to an obstruction charge.
“If Mr. Rodriguez had in fact acted with the intent of obstructing the commissioner’s investigation, then the logical thing to do would have been to keep quiet, not to share the documents with the media,” he argued.
The case is Office of the Commissioner of Baseball v. Sitrick, 13-cv-07990, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).