Sosa's appeal process--legality issues more than baseball-related

But let’s take Sosa for an example: the fact that he is allowed a virtually automatic, discretionary appeal seems to invite abuse, and I was wondering if baseball’s appeal process (and other appeals processes, not necessarily limited to actual legal appeals, but perhaps including them) could include a negative result for the appelent.

I doubt that Sosa would be appealing his open-and-shut case, for example, if by appealing his 8-game suspension, he was risking hearing, “Hey, Sammy, we agree that 8-games is wrong–it’s far too LITTLE. Here, take a friggen MONTH off to think about what you did wrong in wasting our time listening to your weak excuses.” But there’s no downside to an appeals process, so it’s well worth it for him (and every suspended player) to file an appeal.
When I get into a hammer-and-tongs debate with a student of mine, who says his paper’s worth a “B” and I’m sticking to my original grade of “C” (and damned lucky to be getting that), I often resort to a kind of appeals process that has a downside attached. I tell the student I’ll give the paper to a colleague to grade, with the understanding that WHATEVER grade the colleague gives, an “A,” “B”, an “F”, is the grade that will stick. This effectively weeds out all the “what the hell do I have to lose by arguing my ridiculous point” arguers.

Now, am I doing something morally wrong in calling them on their sincerity? It doesn’t feel wrong, but is at odds with all the legal and semi-legal appeals processes I know. So I guess the OP is: Why don’t appeals processes generally include potentially negative outcomes (or do they)?

IMHO, the baseball appeals process doesn’t have a downside primarily because 1) the players’ union would fight having one to the death, and 2) when a player gets suspended, his team often uses the appeals process to effectively “schedule” his suspension. Let’s not have our marquee player suspended during a home series, folks…

Appeals processes can have negative outcomes in baseball. It’s not exactly an appeal, but in salary arbitration if the two sides can’t agree, each side submits a salary figure and the arbitrator picks one or the other. If management is able to win with a lowball figure, the player is screwed.

As for Sosa’s suspension and appeal, it is a bit of an abuse, but the appeal process was gained through collective bargaining and isn’t much different than what many other workers have. It’s just that most people don’t care when a guy on the assembly line misses three days of work for going AWOL anyway.

He is appealing partially because they are starting a home stand against the Yankees today.

Damn near every suspension in baseball is appealed, it doesn’t seem to hurt anything.

I’ve got how the appeals process works and why. What I’m asking is why don’t appeals processes carry more risk of INCREASED penalties, to discourage insincere, manipulative appelants. Is there some legal (or other) precedent for sending a signal that says in effect, “Go ahead and appeal–you’ve got nothing to lose”? Most of the time, a remotely valid case will get no penalty, I’m figuring, but in blatant cases where the appeal is doomed to being denied, it might be good if appelants understood they would be making their situations worse, doncha think?

Baseball is part of the entertainment industry, dear–aren’t they all insincere and manipulative? :smiley:

Since the OP asked

and not about Slammin’ Sammy, I guess there’s nothing morally wrong in giving a fresh look at the decision. In that case, I think we’re talking about arbitration where someone else decides upon a new, agreed-to-be-fair outcome, rather than mediation where a third party helps to reach an in-between compromise. Mediating grades is a bad idea; it’s basically like a free upgrade for the student. Arbitration, however, gives the possibility of a more disadvantageous outcome.

Some things with very important consequences, such as a death-penalty case, can hardly have more serious results after a failed appeal, and something like losing eight games of play (and pay) is a relative minor one.

Perhaps it makes sense that the more truly important the decision, the more we should strive to produce the right response. One could argue that teaching a student to be satisfied with the reward which his work has earned is a fairly weighty decision, and I’d stand by it if I were you.


The appeals process, along with the suspension process itself, is a subject for collective bargaining, as Bob T said. If the owners felt (or feel, I don’t know whether there is a possibility for increased penalties in the baseball appeal system) strongly enough that an increased penalty possibility were important they’d have (or they did) attached an enormous importance to it during bargaining.

That’s BobT, of course, not Bob T. Sorry for the error.

So it sounds like the owners have accepted, as a cost of doing business, that the appeals process will routinely review cases and reduce the players’ penalties by 10-50%, so they simply penalize the players that much more initially, and everyone is happy. It doesn’t sound, if this is the case, as if it’s much worth getting all worked up over, in baseball.

But in the law, is it just the cost (monetary and emotional) that deters people from appealing decisions? I know there are grounds that must be established to make an appeal, but is it ever the case that the appelant could wind up with a LESS favorable outcome from the appeals court?

Getting away from the baseball context and towards the judicial process, it would depend largely on the law of the particular jurisdiction.

In civil cases, normally both parties may be able to appeal, if they both have an objection to the judgment. So if A is found liable and ordered to pay $100,000 to B, but B was asking for $500,000, they might both appeal: A could appeal to challenge the finding of liability and the quantum of damages, B could appeal to try to have the quantum of damages raised. [For the purposes of discussion, assume a trial by judge alone, as appealing jury verdicts are a different matter.]

As well, in those jurisdictions that have costs awards (e.g. - most Commonwealth countries), a party who takes a purely frivolous appeal may be disciplined by a heavy costs award against them, and in favour of the respondent.

On the criminal side, if the appeal takes place in a jurisdiction where the Crown can appeal sentence, both the Crown and the accused might appeal the sentence - the accused seeking to reduce it, the Crown cross-appealing to have it increased.

Very much a YMMV situation, depending on the particular jurisdiction.

I assume your talking about British law? In the U.S., and IAreallyNAL here, it seems that it’s the party who loses who gets to appeal, never the winner. (At least, that how it works on TV; otherwise you’d have episodes of THE PRACTICE that would go on for months.)

In the criminal world, there is very little downside for the appellant. Since he’s only appealing his guilty verdict, the only possible bad result is affirmation. If it’s overturned, then he can roll the dice with a new trial. In general, the sentence may not be increased after a re-trial and conviction, nor may a prosecutor “punish” ana ppellant by charging him more harshly the second time around.

There are a few potential bad spots. In Virginia, the General District court has original jurisdiction over misdemeanors, with an appeal os of right to the Circuit Court. That appeal creates a trial de novo, anew. The old verdict is wiped clean, and there’s a new trial automatically. In those circumstances, the judge or jury may impose a harsher sentence than the GDC did.

  • Rick

Canadian,actually, but there’s a lot of commonality throughout the Commonwealth. I would be surprised if US law did not allow for cross-appeals in civil matters, but I’m willing to be corrected.

In civil matters in U.S. courts, any party can appeal if he didn’t get everything he asked for (or, in the case of a Defendant who did not counterclaim against the Plaintiff, if he didn’t get out of the case totally free and clear). Only about 1/4 of cases are appealed, but typically if anyone appeals, everyone who can does.


I’m a staff attorney in a state appellate court. I can tell you that my state permits cross-appeals in civil cases. I believe that this is the universal rule among U.S. states. I can also tell you that it’s not rare for the winner of a civil case who has not been awarded all he or she thinks was due to appeal. In such a case, a cross appeal by the loser would be predictable.