John Rocker surely did not realize that the foot he was putting in his mouth might someday judge him, too.
"The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners," the Atlanta Braves' left-hander told Sports Illustrated in December. "I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?"
Those words have suddenly increased in irony.
At tomorrow's arbitration hearing in the Major League Baseball offices over Rocker's suspension until May 1 and $20,000 fine, baseball's arbitrator will be Shyam Das, an American citizen who would fall under Rocker's definition of "foreigners" because he was born in England.
Not that the eminently ethical Das would hold Rocker's words about "foreigners" against him, but they are part of the evidence.
How Das got to this country from England is not known; he was described as unavailable yesterday at his office in Pittsburgh.
But according to Simpson's, which publishes biographical information on labor arbitrators, Das's resume is impressive. Educated at Harvard, the University of Chicago and Yale. Law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, an attorney at the New York law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. Member of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
Rocker might also want to know that Das, 55, was the author of "Discrimination in Employment Against Aliens -- The Impact of the Constitution and Federal Civil Rights Law."
Ordinarily, Rocker would not be expected to appear anywhere near the No. 7 train until June 29, when the Braves open a four-game weekend series against the Mets at Shea Stadium.
"Imagine having to take the 7 train to the ballpark, looking like you're" riding through Beirut, he told Sports Illustrated, "next to some kid with some purple hair next to some queer with AIDS right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing."
But sometime today, New York's public enemy No. 1 is expected to arrive here, perhaps at La Guardia Airport, for the arbitration hearing in the city he so dislikes. Unless he's in disguise, he will surely be recognized and hooted, if not on his way to a Midtown Manhattan hotel, then on his way into tomorrow's hearing.
For Rocker, those hoots should be even more depressing than riding the No. 7 train, especially with Commissioner Bud Selig's suspension and fine hanging over him.
Not even the Major League Baseball Players Association, which filed the grievance on Rocker's behalf, has defended what Rocker said, including his reference to a teammate as a "fat monkey." Rocker subsequently described that phrase as clubhouse humor, but Randall Simon, a first baseman from Curaçao who believed Rocker was referring to him, didn't find it funny.
"If he said that to my face," Simon told a reporter not long ago, "I'd tear him up."
Selig tore Rocker up instead, suspending him for all 45 days of spring training and the first 28 days of the season, in addition to the $20,000 fine. But the commissioner has allowed Rocker to join the Braves' minor leaguers in spring training on April 3, when the Braves' regular season begins.
At tomorrow's hearing, the players union will argue that, in an industry where players are told to talk to the news media, such a long suspension is excessive because it will discourage other players from speaking out. Selig disagrees, citing an athlete's social responsibility.
The feeling here is that Rocker should have been fined a record amount for a player, at least $100,000 if not $250,000, but that to suspend him hurts the innocent ones affected by his comments -- his team and his teammates.
If Rocker were being disciplined for the usual team-related baseball incident, such as throwing beanballs or being involved in a bench-clearing brawl, he would deserve a suspension. But his tirade against New York and its "foreigners" was not baseball-related. His absence during his suspension punishes his team and his teammates.
But now a "foreigner," to descend to John Rocker's vocabulary, will be judging his grievance.