The MLBPA needs to get its story straight

Ballplayers have been frozen out by their billionaire bosses for two straight winters in free agency Are they ready to do anything about it? At the All-Star Game, at least, that depends who you ask  USA Today’s Bob Nightengale painted a flowery picture of proletariat solidarity from his ASG dispatch  Red Sox star J.D. Martinez emphasized the cohesion among vets and younger stars “There’s a thought that the association is weaker than it’s ever been because of all of the younger players,” said Martinez, “but I think a lot of young players are beginning to understand We’re all united.”  Pirates slugger Josh Bell came the closest to suggesting a strike, telling USA Today, “I know work stoppages in the past have worked to our benefit for the longevity of the game, the longevity of the player, and for the compensation of the player Just for equal rights.”  Most importantly, he echoed Martinez’ sentiment: “We are together on this ”  Don’t throw your fists in the air just yet. Stephanie Apstein, reporting for Sports Illustrated, published a stunningly different characterization about the players’ attempt to improve on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement She argues that the players are “hopelessly overmatched” and goes from there:  “Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado doesn’t know when the collective-bargaining agreement between MLB and the players’ association expires Giants reliever Will Smith doesn’t know who his team’s union representative is. Cubs shortstop Javier Báez says he has never heard of the CBA ”  Whether Baez learns about the CBA or not, it expires in 2021.  The responses Apstein collects to two questions: What are your priorities heading into discussions? and What would you give up to get what you want? were dim, yet illuminating (The second is a bit tricky — “Please telegraph what you’re willing to surrender on” — but the first is fundamental )  Rangers outfielder and DH Hunter Pence, who’s played in the league since 2007, told SI “I feel like that’s above my pay grade ” Astros relief ace Ryan Pressly said, “That’s a question for a union rep, not me ” Lucas Giolito, who recently expressed a desire to speak up about social issues, and is actually a union rep, told SI, “It hasn’t really been on my mind ” Apstein goes on to say that some players suggested their willingness to concede a salary cap — one of the key planks the union has fought against for decades  To the extent that a union is its members, this is on the players: they should know what the CBA is, and union reps should be crystal clear about the union’s goals But it’s definitely on MLB Players Union brass, starting with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark, to make sure their best players can comfortably speak on a few basic talking points to a largely sympathetic press Anything short of that is a communications crisis.  There must be two All-Star Games Are players ready to fight, or nah? Is it Oochie Wally Wally or is it One Mic? Probably both stories are true but incomplete There are militant players ready to walk out on Dec. 1, 2021, and there are players who don’t know what a CBA is If Clark has any dreams of clawing back a dime from the owners, his only job is to make sure both camps know their interests are aligned

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