Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark took a mighty swing at Rob Manfred one day after the commissioner said free-agent players were still unsigned because they failed to adjust their financial demands to fit with the market. Clark questioned the commitment of clubs when it comes to putting together a winning team and said a number of clubs don't "justify the price of a ticket."
Manfred said Sunday that the sport's reliance on analytics is changing the view on how players should be paid. The comments come as players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel remain unsigned. "Markets change," Manfred said. "We've had a lot of change in the game. People think about players differently. They analyze players differently. They negotiate differently."
Clark sees it differently as this is the second straight offseason in which the free-agent market has been slow. Dozens of players remain unsigned and others took significant pay cuts to get a deal. "Players' eyes don't deceive them, nor do fans'," Clark said in a statement released Monday. "As players report to spring training and see respected veterans and valued teammates on the sidelines, they are rightfully frustrated by a two-year attack on free agency.
"Players commit to compete every pitch of every at-bat, and every inning of every game. Yet we're operating in an environment in which an increasing number of clubs appear to be making little effort to improve their rosters, compete for a championship or justify the price of a ticket." In other words, employing low-salaried players and increasing profits is more important to the clubs, in the eyes of Clark. Ticket prices aren't reduced when the payroll drops significantly and too many losing clubs are passing when it comes to the bidding for top-line players.
Clark and the union have previously pointed out the Houston Astros example and say too many teams are now going that route. The Astros averaged 108 defeats over a three-year span (2011-13) before emerging as a contender. Houston won the World Series title in 2017.
Manfred says that teams are allowed to map out their own strategies and he doesn't feel the Astros' example applies to many teams. "This narrative that our teams aren't trying is just not supported by the facts," Manfred said. "Our teams are trying. Every single one of them wants to win. It may look a little different to outsiders because the game has changed, the way that people think about the game, the way that people think about putting a winning team together has changed, but that doesn't mean they're not trying."
--Field Level Media