Moreno Bullies Matthews
The Los Angeles Times reports that Angels owner Arte Moreno is trying to force a confrontation with outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. over the report that Matthews may have ordered human growth hormone (HGH) in August 2004.
As previously noted in this column, media reports state that Matthews had a prescription for Genotropin. The substance was not banned at the time by Major League Baseball, and it’s not illegal to possess or use if you have a prescription.
Matthews’ name appeared on a list of customers for a pharmaceutical lab raided by the District Attorney in Albany, New York. Many other athletes appear on the list. The D.A. has already stated he will not prosecute the customers, only the suppliers, who are accused of issuing prescriptions without properly evaluating their patients and customers.
None of this seems to make a difference with Moreno, who rather than let the story die has chosen to escalate it into a confrontation with Matthews and the Major League Baseball Players Union (MLBPA).
This may explain why Matthews hired noted L.A. defense attorney Robert Shapiro. Maybe it wasn’t because he feared criminal charges, but he wanted to protect his Constitutional rights from a bully billionaire trying to force Matthews into incriminating himself.
According to the Times, the Angels are "preparing for disciplinary action against the center fielder unless he publicly addresses allegations he received a shipment of human growth hormone."
The article says that, "The Angels and Major League Baseball officials have discussed at least four possibilities — suspending him with pay, suspending him without pay, converting his guaranteed contract to non-guaranteed and voiding the contract." The Angels seem intent on forcing the issue although "they already have been advised that they probably could not succeed in voiding the contract unless Matthews were convicted of a crime," according to the article.
This isn’t the first time Moreno has resorted to hardball tactics. When an initial meeting with City of Anaheim officials didn’t go well, Moreno decided in the dead of a Sunday night to fax over to City Hall a press release announcing the team’s geographic appellation would change from “Anaheim Angels” to “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” The Angels eventually won a lawsuit because the city’s contract with Disney, the prior owners, had been poorly worded, but it left an impression with many — including me — that Moreno is just a rich guy used to pushing people around when he doesn’t get his way.
So now we have Moreno ignoring the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, which states that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be witness against himself.” Not to mention the agreement with the MLBPA that specifies a player can’t be suspended unless convicted of a crime.
Although I’m sure most players in the Angels clubhouse don’t approve of HGH or steroid use, neither do they approve of an owner trying to force one of their teammates into surrendering his rights under the law and under the labor union agreement.
In short, Moreno has succeeded in making a bad situation worse.
And when we should be talking about Angels baseball and the upcoming season, we’re talking about a billionaire owner bullying one of his contractual employees. Swell.
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