Former major league pitcher John Rocker is back in the news for something he said. Unsurprisingly, his words have again fueled controversy. The 38-year-old Georgia native’s big league career was brief, but his outspoken personality and offensive comments made an indelible mark on the sports world, and he won’t soon be forgotten for being one of the most hated athletes of this generation. Rocker currently writes a column for conservative website WorldNetDaily.com, and his latest piece raised some eyebrows. The ex-reliever focused on gun control in his Monday column, and brought the Holocaust into the conversation.
“Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life,” Rocker wrote, “but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.”
Rocker was heavily criticized following an interview he did with Sports Illustrated in 1999, when the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves were battling for supremacy in the National League East.
“I would retire first,” Rocker said at the time in regard to playing in New York. “It’s the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark, looking like you’re [riding through] Beirut next to some kid with purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It’s depressing.”
Rocker continued his rant aimed at New York City by saying, “The biggest thing I don’t like about New York are the foreigners. I’m not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?”
Shyam Das was not fired solely because of his decision on Ryan Braun’s positive drug test, but it certainly played a major role, according to persons familiar with the decision but not authorized to discuss the dismissal.
Das, who delivered the landmark ruling that overturned a possible drug-related suspension for Braun, was fired by Major League Baseball last week as baseball’s independent arbitrator, a post he’d held since 1999.
As an independent arbitrator, Das serves at the pleasure of both the players’ union and MLB’s central office, and either party can terminate the relationship at any time. Both parties must agree on the hiring of a new arbitrator.
After Das ruled that a drug sample collector’s failure to follow protocol with Braun’s sample violated baseball’s joint drug-testing policy, Rob Manfred, MLB’s vice president of labor relations, issued a scathing rebuke of Das’s decision:
“Major League Baseball considers the obligations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program essential to the integrity of our game, our Clubs and all of the players who take the field. It has always been Major League Baseball’s position that no matter who tests positive, we will exhaust all avenues in pursuit of the appropriate discipline. We have been true to that position in every instance, because baseball fans deserve nothing less.
“As a part of our drug testing program, the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association agreed to a neutral third party review for instances that are under dispute. While we have always respected that process, Major League Baseball vehemently disagrees with the decision rendered today by arbitrator Shyam Das.”
Players’ union executive director Michael Weiner expressed disappointment Monday at Das’s dismissal.
“Shyam Das has been served the parties with distinction and professionalism for 13 years,” Weiner said. “We think he’s an excellent arbitrator.”
Weiner said the union is conferring with the commissioner’s office to find a replacement.
On Monday, the AP reported that Colorado Rockies catcher Eliezer Alfonzo’s 100-game suspension has been overturned due to storage and shipment of his urine sample. Monday afternoon, MLB released a statement saying that Alfonzo’s grievance “raised issues that were nearly identical to those resolved in the arbitration involving Ryan Braun.”
Das has been a critical behind-the-scenes figure in baseball, making several other key rulings in disputes between the union and MLB, and has drawn the ire of commissioner Bud Selig before.
In 2000, Das reduced MLB’s suspension of Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker from 45 days to 14, and also cut his fine from $20,000 to $500 for controversial comments Rocker made to Sports Illustrated. Said Selig: “It completely ignores the sensibilities of those groups of people maligned by Mr. Rocker and disregards the player’s position as a role model for children.”
Five years later, Das ruled that Selig’s punishment of pitcher Kenny Rogers – who shoved two cameramen – was too harsh, trimming Rogers’ suspension from 20 games to 13. Das also ruled that Rogers’ $50,000 fine would be converted to a charitable contribution.
Former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker says he is nearly done working on a memoir that is to be self-published and released in June. According to Rocker it set to be titled “John Rocker: Scars and Stripes” after unable to persuade any of the big publishing houses to give him a deal.
Rocker says the book will be a mixture of baseball and politics, with some of his philosophy and feelings. He adds that it will be “how the conversation would have gone had that writer gotten it right.” A reference to the Sports Illustrated story in 2000 in which he bashed homosexuals and foreigners specifying “Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people.” Saying “how the hell did they get in this country?”
Rocker currently is a real estate developer.