More than three years after the Orioles released and terminated the contract of Sidney Ponson after his third arrest in a nine-month span, a grievance arbitrator will finally decide how much money - if any - the organization owes the pitcher.
Orioles general counsel Russell Smouse confirmed yesterday that the grievance would start being heard Dec. 17 in Baltimore by arbitrator Shyam Das. The hearing could take several days, and there is no definitive timetable for Das to render a decision. The Orioles released Ponson in September 2005 and refused to pay him the remaining $11.2 million on his three-year, $22.5 million deal. The Major League Baseball Players Association immediately filed a grievance against the club, trying to recoup the rest of the money on his guaranteed contract.
"We look forward to a positive outcome in Sidney's grievance," said Barry Praver, Ponson's agent.
The hearing had been scheduled several times before but continually postponed as other cases took precedence. Another reason for the hold-up was that the Orioles had not received specific discovery documents they had requested from the union.
After the 2004 season, Ponson spent 11 days in jail in his native Aruba in connection with allegedly punching a judge during a Christmas Day fight on the beach. Less than a month later, he was arrested on a drunken driving charge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Ponson was again arrested on a drunken driving charge Aug. 25, this time in Baltimore. The Orioles released him Sept. 1 and eventually voided his contract.
The right-hander has pitched for four teams since his release by the Orioles, including two stints with the New York Yankees. Now a free agent, Ponson finished last season with the Yankees, going 4-4 with a 5.85 ERA in 16 appearances.