Selig: No Call Yet on Beltre


In the matter of Adrian Beltre and his request to be declared a free agent, the prevalent thinking among baseball executives has been that the commissioner’s office, serving as the investigator, judge and jury, would make every attempt to keep the third baseman with the Dodgers for economic reasons.

However, Commissioner Bud Selig said emphatically Friday that he has yet to make a decision. That despite a Fox Sports News report late Thursday night that it will be announced Monday that the Dodgers will be fined for signing the Dominican Republic native before he reached the legal age of 16 but that he will remain with the team because baseball’s statute of limitations has expired. Beltre was signed more than five years ago.

Because the Dodgers are owned by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Group, the Fox report was perceived as substantial, but Selig said, “I don’t care what anyone is reporting, I haven’t made a decision. I met with Sandy Alderson [executive vice president] in New York yesterday, and I’m still having a lot of stuff faxed to me [at my Milwaukee office] today. I expect a decision by midweek.”


Despite Selig’s comments, an industry source said the Fox report was based on a recommendation Alderson and staff had reached and is likely to be followed. Alderson did not return several messages left at his New York office Friday, but at the recent winter meetings in Anaheim, he said that he had all the information needed to make a decision.

The Dodgers had no comment Friday, and Scott Boras, who represents Beltre, said he had not been notified of any finding and had been previously told that a decision was likely Tuesday or Wednesday.

Boras, however, reiterated that he would not be surprised if the ultimate decision went against Beltre and that he would have to pursue a more impartial decision through binding arbitration.

His ultimate hope is that Beltre will be declared a free agent, with the Dodgers not precluded from re-signing him. If the commissioner’s office rules against Beltre on either count, as appears likely, it is expected that the players’ union will file a grievance on his behalf, asking for an expedited arbitration hearing, which would still take a month or more.

The commissioner is also likely to contest the union’s jurisdiction, arguing Beltre was not a major league player when the alleged violation took place.

“The grievance procedure is the only place where Adrian Beltre will have an independent arbitrator rule on the facts,” Boras said. “We knew that when this process started.”


The agent has contended that the Dodgers signed Beltre illegally, falsifying documents in the process. Boras says that although Beltre is the first major league player to seek free agency by claiming he was signed while underage, the precedent in cases involving minor league players has clearly established that the player is declared a free agent.

That held true even in the recent case involving Ricardo Aramboles, a Dominican youngster first signed by the Florida Marlins. Aramboles, who subsequently signed with the New York Yankees, was declared a free agent, even though his parents admitted they had falsified documents in his original signing because they needed the money.

Sources also insist that baseball’s statute of limitations--Major League Rule 22--says only that a claim must be filed within a year of the alleged violation becoming known to the person involved and that in most cases of fraudulent concealment, as allegedly evidenced by the Dodgers’ behavior, that overrides any statute of limitation.

Boras has said that Beltre was unaware of the rule when he signed and it was not until they were at dinner last March 10 that Beltre, responding to compliments on his baseball instincts for a 21-year-old, said he was only 20. Then they began to investigate his signing.

“It would not be surprising if the commissioner’s office has its own agenda and would look for any technical defense to prevent Adrian from becoming a free agent,” a source familiar with the situation said.

The source and others cited reasons why Selig and Alderson might strongly oppose making Beltre a free agent:


* Other major league players might pursue a similar course.

* The possibility that Beltre could sign a free-agent contract in the range of $6 million a year would blow out the second-year salary scale and significantly impact the arbitration scale for players with even more service time.

* The reluctance to seriously penalize a team owned by a media giant that pours millions of dollars into the industry for TV rights.

Staff writers Tim Brown and Jason Reid contributed to this story.