It was one of the worst winters for Major League Baseball players in some time. Free-agents sat on the market for months, waiting for teams to show interest. An unprecedented number of players were still available in March. It was unlike anything the sport had ever experienced.
The players aren’t too happy about that. As a result of the slow offseason, some have started pushing for the removal of MLB Players Association leader Tony Clark, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Rosenthal spoke to five players, though none of them were willing to go on the record calling for Clark to be removed. Those who want Clark out believe the union should be led by an attorney, and not a former player. Clark spent 15 years in the majors, retiring after the 2009 season. He took over as MLBPA union head in 2013, after Michael Weiner — an attorney — died in 2013.
While some in the union would like to see Clark removed as head of the union, they still believe he can help the players, according to Rosenthal.
Players and agents generally like and respect Clark, and do not want to embarrass him. Many believe the union would benefit from Clark’s intelligence, passion and playing background in another role even if he were removed as executive director. Some players do not think Clark should be blamed at all, saying the problems in the free-agent market resulted more from changes in the way clubs evaluate players than flaws in the collective-bargaining agreement that Clark negotiated in Nov. 2016.
Clark just completed his tour of all 30 spring camps. While meeting with the players, Rosenthal mentions four veterans who asked “pointed questions” to Clark. Those players were Josh Donaldson, Rick Porcello, Eric Hosmer and Charlie Blackmon. Hosmer just went through the free-agent process. Both Donaldson and Blackmon are slated to be free-agents following the 2018 season.
Not every player is on board with the movement. At least one defended Clark, saying he’s being used as a scapegoat for agents who misread the market.
“A lot of this is coming from agents,” the player said. “A lot of agents promised clients a lot of money, stole clients from other agencies and promised a lot of money that they weren’t able to deliver. They need a reason other than they made a mistake judging the market.”
That quote highlights the difficulties the players will face if they are looking to remove Clark as head of the union. There are differing opinions on what led to their current situation. They are not united on the issue.
If something is going to happen, Rosenthal mentions that it could be within the next couple months — or possibly weeks. The next collective-bargaining agreement will be crucial to the players, and they want strong leadership in place as soon as possible to start preparing for a fight in 2021.
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