Originally created 02/11/00

Rocker testifies at suspension hearing



NEW YORK -- John Rocker got the chance Thursday to explain his controversial comments, testifying on the second and final day of a hearing he hopes will lead to a reduction in his suspension.

The Braves reliever, suspended by commissioner Bud Selig until May 1 and fined $20,000, was the primary witness called by the players' association, which hoped to convince arbitrator Shyam Das to overturn the penalty.

Das' decision is expected later this month.

"It will be no sooner than 10 days from now," management lawyer Rob Manfred said.

Former major league pitcher Scott Sanderson was the only other witness called by the union. He testified on the effects of shortened spring training.

"It's before the arbitration panel. There's nothing more I can say," union head Donald Fehr said.

In contrast to Wednesday, the first day of the grievance hearing, there were few protesters on the sidewalk outside baseball's offices on Thursday.

Selig testified Thursday on the rationale of his decision and was questioned by union lawyer Gene Orza on what precedents he considered. Braves president Stan Kasten also testified on the opening day along with an Atlanta city councilman.

Kevin Hallinan, baseball's executive director of security, was management's final witness Thursday and talk about the measures baseball took to protect Rocker last September and October, when he got into verbal sparring with New York fans.

Rocker, razzed by Mets and Yankees fans during the pennant race and postseason last year, told Sports Illustrated in December he would never play for a New York team because he didn't want to ride a subway train "next to some queer with AIDS." He also mocked foreigners and called a Latin teammate a "fat monkey."

Selig responded Jan. 31 by suspending him for all 45 days of spring training and the first 28 days of the season, fining him $20,000 and ordering sensitivity training. The players association, successful at overturning or shortening many suspensions, then filed a grievance.

The union says the suspension was without "just cause," arguing speech shouldn't be punished, even if it's offensive.