Joint Review Counsel Will Go to Work : Three-Man Committee to Decide if Padre Wiggins Is Fit to Play
In an unprecedented move, baseball’s Joint Review Counsel convenes today in an attempt to sift through the madness that is Alan Wiggins.
And it is madness only because Wiggins, a Padre second baseman, has left many questions unanswered about his childhood, about his drug use, about his mysterious disappearance on April 25 and about his supposed rehabilitation.
But the Joint Review Counsel in New York will only determine whether Wiggins is medically fit to play baseball.
The counsel, consisting of two physicians and a psychologist, has never met because there has never been such a dispute under baseball’s new drug agreement.
It will be answering a purely subjective question, one that will undoubtedly be affirmative because Wiggins has received a “back-to-work letter” from doctors at the Hazelden Foundation, a drug treatment center in Minnesota.
If he is ruled fit, Wiggins, under baseball’s joint drug agreement, must play baseball. And since the Padres say he won’t play for them this season, they likely will trade him.
But to whom? The Padres unofficially are talking with Baltimore, Cleveland, the Chicago White Sox and Philadelphia.
Wiggins was hitting 2 for 37 when he disappeared more than a month ago, leaving his Los Angeles hotel at about 4 p.m. on a game day. He has not been seen by the Padres since.
He later entered a drug rehabilitation center, and probably only the personnel there know the extent of his drug problems. Those problems are documented in medical files at Hazelden.
The Joint Review Counsel will see those files today. The Padres wanted the files, but Wiggins’ representatives refused, fearing the Padres would leak their findings to the media.
“It (the file) has very sensitive statements about Alan, which I don’t think they (the Padres) are entitled to,” said Eugene Orza, associate general counsel of baseball’s Players’ Assn. “It is a two-page discharge summary, signed by Alan Wiggins’ counselor. It talks about his relationship with his mother, father and wife.”
The fact Wiggins’ representatives did not give the Padres the report means the counsel must rule on the case. Theoretically, the counsel has the final say on a player’s medical status, but it has not yet been tested. Grievances could be filed following today’s meeting.
The meeting, which probably will last four to five hours, will be attended by Wiggins and his agent Tony Attanasio. Also attending are Beth Benes, Padre general counsel, and Ballard Smith, Padres president.
There has been little communication between them. For instance, the Padres had asked that Wiggins take a physical for their team doctor, and Wiggins’ representatives agreed. But the Padres never set a date for this examination and then decided they wanted to see the medical records from Hazelden.
And Wiggins has refused comment since he has returned from Minnesota. Reporters and television cameras have visited his home, but he has said nothing, only that he’s healthy and eager to play.
There is a chance that Wiggins will reveal more at a press conference this week at San Diego, one that Attanasio has tentatively scheduled for Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the swiftness of the JRC’s decision. Attanasio said the press conference would be the only time Wiggins would speak about the ordeal, though he would repeat a press conference in Wiggins’ new city if he is traded.