MLB’s new policy against banned foreign substances has led to visceral reactions from players.
A former executive says the policy is just a symptom of a power struggle between owners and players.
He says it will lead to a work stoppage, and each side will use the policy to justify other demands.
Major League Baseball’s new policy banning sticky substances is just a guise for a greater power struggle between players and owners and could ultimately lead to a work stoppage, according to former Miami Marlins president David Samson.
“There’s no question in my mind,” Samson said during “The Dan Le Batard Show.” “But be clear, it’s not a warning that a work stoppage is coming, it’s a warning that if a work stoppage does come, it’s because of the other side. The players are positioning us to believe that the owners are being unreasonable. The owners are positioning us to believe that the players are being unreasonable.”
If Samson is correct, it would be MLB’s ninth work stoppage since 1972. This time around, MLB’s new banned substances policies would be the driving reason.
The new policies require umpires to inspect pitchers for banned substances like pine tar and rosin and punish those caught using them.
The policies have already sparked a conflict between players and the league offices.
Several pitchers have spoken out against MLB for instituting the change, including Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, Trevor Bauer of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Tyler Glasnow of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Other pitchers have expressed their grievances on the field with reactions to the inspections, including one player who started to take off his pants when umpires approached him.
But Samson thinks that’s just a symptom of a greater disagreement.
Players want big changes to contract deadlines, according to Samson
Samson said the entire substance situation is a product of intentional conflict created by a select group of unnamed team owners, unnamed players’ agents, and MLB Players Association Executive Director Tony Clark.
The reasons behind the conflict are statutes that favor teams over players in the last three collective bargaining agreements passed in 2007, 2012, and 2017.
The statutes include salary arbitration protocols – which is when a neutral arbitrator determines a player’s salary for the final years of their rookie contract – and service time manipulation practices – which is when teams keep players in the lower minor league system longer to increase the length of their rookie contracts.
“This is what everyone has been waiting for if you’re a player,” Samson said. “The sticky substances, it’s all a fugazi, it’s meant to distract you from what’s really going on behind the scenes, which is an effort from the owners to not give away anything they’ve gained in the last two or three agreements.”
The current collective bargaining agreement will expire at the end of the 2021 season. Owners are looking to keep those statutes in place, while players are looking for reform, according to Samson.
“The owners, last time, were forced to give up all sorts of many meaningless things that players wanted like food and chefs and planes and game times,” Samson said. “Now the union wants something totally different. They want players to be called up earlier, and they want players to be eligible for arbitration earlier.”
The current systems allow teams to extend players’ deadline for arbitration and free-agent eligibility by keeping them on minor league rosters for extended thresholds of the season.
These systems have prevented players from qualifying for arbitration and free agency after spending the expected amount of time on a team’s system, giving teams more payroll flexibility over the years.
Samson believes those systems, and the contrasting objectives of players and owners in changing or maintaining those systems, are the underlying reasons for the new banned substance policies.
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