Braves' Nixon Fouls Up Second Chance
NEW YORK--Commissioner Fay Vincent said yesterday he gave Otis Nixon an unprecedented second chance after a positive drug test because he was persuaded the test might be an error.
The Atlanta Braves outfielder was suspended Monday for 60 days after another test, six weeks later, also showed cocaine use. Baseball officials said they didn't act on the first one because Nixon had passed more than 200 tests since 1987 and was involved with his aftercare program and his church.
"Everybody still has the attitude that we've got to go out and play hard." Bream said Monday night before the Braves lost 8-5 to the San Francisco Giants at Candles-tick Park.
The Atlanta Constitution reported in yesterday's editions that Nixon was contacted at the San Francisco airport but would not comment in detail about the penalty.
"It's something that really hurts, but I have to catch my flight," Nixon told the newspaper. "Some-day I'll tell the whole story. Gotta go."
The paper said major league baseball sources said Nixon, 32, tested positive for cocaine from a sample taken Sept. 7 in New York. The results reached the commissioner's office Monday morning.
The paper also quoted "one high-ranking baseball official" as saying that Nixon tested positive in July but avoided suspension after having the Players Association file a grievance on his behalf.
Atlanta loses Nixon with three weeks left in the season, forcing the Braves to play their final 19 games without him as they battle the Dodgers for the NL West Division championship. "I can't see a change," said Braves catcher Gregg Olson. "Everybody is focused on one thing--and that's the pennant.
Nixon was acquired by the Braves in spring training for a minor league player in an attempt to improve Atlanta's speed. He responded by setting a team record for stolen bases.
Nixon is batting .297 with a .371 on-base percentage and 26 RBIs. He has split time in left field with Lonnie Smith, who is batting .280 with a .380 on-base percentage, along with five homers and 36 RBIs. Smith has stolen only six bases.
Manager Bobby Cox said Smith will play left field full-time the rest of the season, and that he expects the Braves not to be slowed any less than they were without Justice or Bream.
The penalty imposed by the commissioner's office after results of drug tests became available Monday cannot be appealed, but it can be grieved through the players' union.
"If they (grieved) it, the arbitrator would have to suspend the suspension." Commissioner Fay Vincent said. "Just filing a grievance, if they do that, does not affect it."
Michael Weiner, assistant general counsel of the union, said he had spoken to Nixon and his agent Joe Sroba earlier in the day. Weiner said a decision on filing a grievance would probably be made within 24 hours.
Braves General Manager John Schuerholtz said Nixon had little to say when informed of the suspension.
Nixon, who has stolen 72 bases, was suspended for violating his aftercare program and the commissioner's drug policy, a statement from the commissioner's office said. In August 1987 while with the Cleveland organization, Nixon entered a substance abuse rehabiliation center, although he never was suspended.
Nixon went into the treatment facility a week after being arrested on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance and obstructing governmental administration. He pleaded guilty to attempted obstruction of governmental administration, and the drug charge was dropped.