Hart's case goes to a hearing

One last chat with the representative for outfielder Corey Hart did not yield a compromise on Thursday morning, when the Brewers snapped their 12-year streak without an arbitration hearing. 

Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash and club negotiator Teddy Werner sat in on the hearing, which began at 8:30 a.m. CT and was attended by Hart and his agent Jeff Berry. Now Hart’s case is in the hands of three professional arbitrators, who will decide whether the player will earn the $4.8 million he’s seeking for 2010, or the $4.15 million that the Brewers offered. 

A decision is expected on Friday morning. 

“I would say it went as expected,” Werner said after the hearing. “I don’t think anybody wanted to be in there, but, and I’ve said this before, there is this mechanism in place to resolve a disagreement over how a player would be compensated.”

Ash and Werner accepted Berry’s offer to meet on Wednesday evening and again on Thursday morning but couldn’t strike a deal. The Brewers remained firm in their unwillingness to revisit the number — slightly below the midpoint of filings — that they had proposed before a Jan. 29 negotiating deadline.

So, the sides went into the hearing room. Each side had 60 minutes to present exhibits, followed by a brief break and then 30 minutes each for rebuttal. The Brewers’ case was presented by outside counsel. The whole process lasted about 4 1/2 hours, Werner said. 

According to the Associated Press, Hart’s case was heard by 
professional arbitrators Elizabeth Neumeier, John Sands and Sylvia Skratek

“I thought the tone was perfectly fair,” Werner said. “We recognize that this is an uncomfortable process for everybody. We have a lot of confidence in Corey going forward and we know that if the team is going to be successful in 2010, he’s going to be a big part of that. I certainly don’t think the tone was overly negative. It was simply both sides stating the facts and how comparable players get paid for past performances. We said Corey was comparable to Players A, B, and C, and they said he was comparable to Players X, Y and Z. That’s it.” 

Hart earned $3.25 million during a 2009 campaign interrupted by an emergency appendectomy in August. Hart missed more than a month and finished with a .260 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs. 
Hart is the fourth Brewers player to go all the way to a hearing in the salary arbitration process, which began in 1974. Before Thursday, the last was pitcher Jose Mercedes, who won his case in 1998. 
Before Hart, the only other Brewers position player to go to a hearing was infielder Jim Gantner in 1992. The team won that case. 
For a more detailed look at the club’s short salary arbitration history, check out my story on Brewers.com. And stay tuned for the result of Hart’s hearing on Friday. 
According to the AP, Hart’s case was the first to be heard and 11 more players had arbitration hearings scheduled through next week. 
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