Talking Baseball: The CBA and Other Topics
by Joe Luchok
MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner, speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC on April 11, said that neither labor peace nor conflict is the goal of collective bargaining. The goal is to get a deal that best for the players, management, and the game. I was at the presentation and a reception before the event. Among others at the event were Bobby Bonilla, Tony Clark, Steve Rogers, and B.J. Surhoff. In this article I will write about several of the things I picked up at the event.
I was talking with Tony Clark, former MLB first baseman, and said the new CBA looked like it was fairly easy. Clark took my arm and shook his head “no” so I added it looked easy to those of us on the outside. He agreed with that.
Mr. Weiner elaborated on that in his presentation. He said that bargaining is a power struggle but now the owners respect the bargaining power of the players. He said that 238 players, from veterans to young players, attended bargaining sessions. He added that the current CBA touches more parts than any agreement over the past 24 years. He said there were arguments, frustrations, and abrupt endings to some meetings but neither side took issues to the media, which is why it looked smooth from the outside.
A number of areas were covered in the Q & A session after Mr. Weiner’s presentation. A few highlights:
Neither side brought up the DH in the sessions so it looks like it will be around for a while, though he did agree that it is odd for an industry to have different parts working under different rules.
MLB has shown it can be competitive without a salary cap.
Social media can link players to fans but the union advises players to think before they hit send.
The players and MLB have agreed to implement more instant replay to check calls. Now MLB is negotiating with the umpires on the use of additional replay.
As I mentioned, I also talked with Tony Clark, who is now the Director of Player relations for the Major League Baseball Players association. I asked him whether players usually know when they can no longer play or do the teams let them know. He said mostly the team lets you know because when players look in the mirror they see the same player they always were. Clark also told me that his body was breaking down near the end of his career. I said I thought many fans do not realize how wearing baseball is on the body. Clark responded that in football and basketball you see the collisions while in baseball the breakdowns come from repeatedly swinging a bat or throwing a ball. He said baseball does not have as many immediate career threatening injuries as other sports; it is more the cumulative effects of playing that results in players no longer being able to perform.
I also spoke with Clark about the role of the mind in baseball. Clark told me that mental makeup is the one part of player you can’t scout. He said he saw many players who had great talent but did not have the mental makeup to use the talent. We have all heard pitchers talk about having to “trust my pitches”. Although we did not talk about specific players, this could explain some of the problems of Pedro Alvarez.
I also spoke briefly with Bobby Bonilla. I was enjoying talking to Clark and didn’t get to Bonilla until near the end of the reception. I asked him if he could still hit and he said he could hit a fastball but a breaking ball would tie him in knots. He also said the Pirates are heading in the right direction.
Overall, it a wonderful afternoon that provided me with some insight I never had before.