Major League Baseball notified the Orioles earlier this week that pitcher Scott Erickson will not accumulate service time necessary to exercise blanket veto power over any trade until July 6, a departure from the Commissioner Office's finding Monday that sets up a potential showdown with the Major League Baseball Players Association should the club attempt to deal Erickson without his consent.
Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos received a fax Wednesday notifying him of the modified interpretation, club sources confirmed yesterday.
Players association assistant general counsel Michael Weiner said Tuesday that the union would seek an arbitration hearing on Erickson's behalf should the Orioles attempt to trade him without consent after June 26. The issue appeared to become moot after the Orioles were told late Monday when the Commissioner's Office notified the club that it calculated Erickson's reaching the "10-and-5" threshold at midnight June 26. Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift attempted to work 11th-hour deals with the Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets but could not find a suitable match.
Thrift later acknowledged MLB's ruling while taking a potential Erickson deal off the front burner.
Union officials were unavailable last night to comment about the reversal, but Weiner said Tuesday, "Any trade of Scott Erickson without his consent at this time would lead to a response on the part of the players association, no question."
Once a player accrues 10 years of major-league service and five consecutive years with the same club, he receives the right to veto any trade. Typically, a player is compensated for waiving the right. One of Erickson's representatives, Jeff Borris, said earlier this week that the Orioles' innings monster would consider any trade that might send him to a contender.
The source of confusion is Erickson's 1995 season, when he was traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Orioles in July. Major League Baseball counts a season as 172 days of service. The schedule typically extends 181 to 183 days. The players association argues that Erickson's service with the Orioles in '95 should have been counted through the schedule's last day. Major League Baseball disregarded the final 10 days, which leaves Erickson with fewer than five full seasons with the Orioles.
Orioles director of public relations Bill Stetka last night confirmed the revised ruling. However, the club has not said whether it may test the union's stance with a trade before July 6.
Erickson, on the second year of a five-year, $32 million contract, recently has done little to enhance his value. He survived only five innings in last night's loss to the Boston Red Sox, allowing seven runs in five innings. Last Friday against the Seattle Mariners he was also ripped for seven runs in five innings and finally lifted after nine of his last 10 hitters faced reached base. Erickson underwent arthroscopic elbow surgery March 3 and has recently struggled with mechanics, according to some observers. He has proven especially vulnerable in middle innings.