Austin Slater didn't become the Giants' player representative last spring after an official clubhouse election, but he might have gotten something better than a vote.
When the Players Association came to the clubhouse for the yearly meeting, they asked who the rep was. Buster Posey said it was Slater -- who represented the Giants at an MLBPA meeting the previous offseason -- and Brandon Crawford, once the interim rep, backed that up. When it comes to this clubhouse, that's about as official as it gets.
It's a role Slater enjoys, although he couldn't have imagined what his first year as rep would include. Slater ended up on Zoom calls and text chains with players from other teams as MLB and the MLBPA tried to work out COVID-19 protocols last summer, and he remains a go-to for teammates who have questions about things like health and safety, meal money and the next CBA.
Slater is representing his teammates at a time when he's once again trying to lock up a big role in the outfield, but he said he's happy to wear a second cap.
"I love this sport," he said Thursday on a video conference with reporters. "I love the guys in the clubhouse and I want to make sure we're well-represented and we're making good business choices for players, not only today but in the future."
This is a contentious time for MLB and the MLBPA, and it's only going to get worse with the CBA expiring after this season, and concerns about what that means for 2022. When he hopped in the Zoom Room with reporters Thursday, Slater provided a lot of clarity and some interesting answers about where everything stands:
Why there's no universal DH right now:
"The DH has been something that the league has wanted for years, and then as soon as the players decide, hey, you know, this is a good thing for baseball, the league is like no, no, no, we'll only do it now if you let us do expanded playoffs. That just didn't feel like fair trade when they're offering expanded playoffs and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue just for a DH. We're still trying to figure out how the breakdown is, the split, how expanded playoffs plays. Not only with revenue going towards players and going towards teams but also how it affects competition.
"Does it create other disincentives from teams at the top from spending, does it incentivize teams in the middle to spend more? Those are things the union is trying to figure out right now, but as it was presented right now it was DH-for-expanded playoffs, which in the players union's mind is not a fair trade as far as the benefits towards teams and the benefits towards players."
Could there still be a DH this season?
"I guess anything is possible. I just don't see -- unless the league comes off of that stance of expanded playoffs-for-DH -- that that will happen. It's been the M.O. of the league to wait until the last second to propose a deal. You saw that with spring training, trying to delay it a week and a half, two weeks before camp was supposed to start. It's like alright, it's kinda too late at this point -- guys have booked houses and made plans to go there.
"A lot of it depends on does the league come out with a proposal now and give us time to process and talk among players and see if this is a good thing or not, or do they wait until a week until the season (to) try to figure it out. But you know, last year during summer camp they figured out the expanded playoffs, so I'm not going to rule it out."
On former Mariners CEO Kevin Mather's comments about manipulating service time for top prospect Jarred Kelenic:
"It's something that everyone who has been around baseball has known is happening, so it's not really a surprise idea that that's happening. But I do think it's a little surprising to hear someone in his position come out and say that."
On his confidence in making it through a 162-game season after making it through 60 last year:
"I think we proved it, obviously it was over a much shorter time period, but I think we do have other factors in play. Some guys have gotten (the coronavirus) this offseason and have antibodies. We have vaccines coming out. There's been generally positive reception among guys and staff to potentially get vaccinated. I think there are other things in play that'll help us get through that. I think we did a great job and we need to stay on it."
Will vaccines be encouraged?
"The league and the union both are not making (vaccines) mandatory. It's case by case for each player, how they feel about it, and it's a decision they need to make individually and with their family. All you can do is provide information and point them in the right direction when they have questions. Hopefully that's enough for people to make the decision whether to get vaccinated or not."