Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer have been examples A and B of what the union does not want to do during tenuous negotiations with Major League Baseball.
Public sentiment will not leak over to the players. They are the relatable ones, the ones fans scream at and for, the ones who have their jerseys or baseball cards bought. They are the emotional bond to the game. Not the owners. They’re a pack of men behind the curtain.
Which is why Snell and Bauer operating on their own runs counter to the union’s better interests -- and focus. A focus largely headed by the measured comments of Max Scherzer, or other prominent union representatives like St. Louis’ Andrew Miller.
Snell kicked off the what-not-to-do examples when he said the short-sighted and ill-informed, if accurate, “I gotta get my money” two weeks ago. That notion fed right into the perspective of player greed and the owners virtually high-fived. They stretched their inherent public relations lead thanks to Snell’s misstep.
Bauer made his inappropriate contribution where measured response goes to dies: Twitter. Bauer tweeted, “Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs. If true -- and at this point, these are only rumors -- I have one thing to say...Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”
The rumors were true according to an Associated Press report. Boras sent a memo to his clients -- three of whom, including Scherzer, are on the MLBPA’s eight-player executive subcommittee -- which advised them not to “bail out” the owners. Boras argued the owners made bad financial decisions outside of baseball and the players’ salaries should not be a path to financial recuperation.
So, yes, Boras -- the sports’ most powerful agent -- is giving his clients his opinion of how to proceed. This is neither surprising nor unbecoming conduct. He negotiates for billions of dollars on an annual basis and does much of it while bending public perception. He’s more someone to listen to in these scenarios than tune out.
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Bauer’s desire to keep another agent out of union business is not a sin unto itself. His agent, Rachel Luba, is not part of the process. It’s understandable he wants to curtail other agents.
However, deciding to blast a tweet about it left other union members shaking their heads. And it’s in direct contrast to the approach Scherzer and others on the sub-committee have taken.
Scherzer’s late-night tweet was a measured, considered strike, in keeping with his general approach to public statements. Union work is second only to his primary function -- make all his starts -- when he views his job. He wants to relay specific points at specific times following forethought and consideration of the ripple effects. Basically the opposite of Bauer.
Look back to what Scherzer said about negotiations between the players and league in late March when they came together for an initial deal. Think about the points he makes here to NBC Sports Washington and how Bauer’s tweet undermines the priorities.
“All the players were very well connected,” Scherzer said then. “For having such a significant issue -- I don’t think baseball has ever been shut down, so we were navigating a situation that was constantly changing every 24 hours as we were trying to understand what was going to happen. And, we were trying to understand what we wanted in a deal.
“I got to commend the rest of the players in the league and the other players in the executive committee for everybody stepping up, being connected and sharing a voice. Trying to get as educated as possible to communicate it to the whole 1,200-player group. Try to get everybody’s desires of what they wanted in the deal, done. I thought we really acted extremely well together with our union leadership of coming up with what our wants were and working together as one to be able to get that done.”
This, again, is a key concept for the players. They need to be bonded in private, and even more so in public, which is why consistent messaging matters. Scherzer is among the cat herders here. No owner will be speaking out of turn. The players would be well-served to join them.
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