Buster Olney Blog- ESPN

As the union begins to formulate a badly needed strategy for the months and years ahead, sources continue to say that Clark and the union leadership have been engaged in substantive conversations with agents, a marked change from how business was conducted leading up to the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. Back then, many agents felt shut out of the process, and after the final CBA terms were revealed, they felt the lack of dialogue and assessment was a serious mistake.

Whatever its composition, whoever is involved, the union leadership should devote some serious thought to how to handle social media — which has the potential to be a weapon for the players’ association, but also a significant problem if the players’ association goes to war with MLB in the next round of talks.


No major professional sports league has attempted to strike since social media became so ingrained in U.S. culture.

Almost a quarter-century has passed since the last time the union conducted a players’ strike, which swallowed the 1994 World Series and the beginning of the 1995 season. Back then, the oldest and even the youngest players were battle-tested in labor strife, with many having experienced everything from multiple rounds of owners’ collusion to strikes to lockouts, and within the membership, there was a strong belief in the common cause. There was also intense peer pressure, when needed. I remember Tony Gwynn chuckling as he recalled the angry exchanges in some of the meetings, whenever an individual player would question the wisdom of the union’s path. The occasional dissenters were shouted down.

Players such as Lenny Dykstra might have disagreed with the decisions and preferred to be back at work, but generally speaking, players expected each other to fall in line and back the leadership. In the midst of the 1994-95 strike, Orioles pitcher Arthur Rhodes showed up at Baltimore’s camp to say hello to friends — and when the union leadership got wind of this, he was told to leave ASAP, lest he inadvertently convey the message to baseball owners that the players were desperate to get back to work.

Imagine how much more difficult it could be for the union to hold together a coalition these days, with a thousand-plus members posting on their own Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Imagine what a body blow it would be to any union if you had individuals griping in Tweets about being out of work, about paychecks missed, about union leadership choices.

Marvin Miller, the legendary union leader who is primarily responsible for building the strength of baseball’s players’ association, believed in openness, to better educate rank-and-file members. He wanted the players to know what their peers were earning, because owners had kept everything secret for decades and used the players’ ignorance in salary matters against them. He wanted the players to understand when and why it was important to take a stand.

Clark and the players have a lot to sort through and need to do so quickly, given the leverage the union could possess immediately over the issues of tanking teams, the NL adoption of the designated hitter and changes to rules. The players’ association likely will have the opportunity to make up for lost ground long before it has to think about a work stoppage, so long as the union engages.

Francisco Mejia, the young catcher acquired by the Padres when San Diego traded lefty Brad Hand and sidearmer Adam Cimber to Cleveland, has always hit in the minor leagues. But moving forward, a key question about Mejia for some evaluators is whether he can play well enough defensively to continue to be a catcher, or if he has to move to another position; of course, a shift to another spot would greatly mitigate his value.

• Kyle Schwarber estimates that he takes anywhere from 30 to 50 swings on an average day — and he figures he took about 10 times that many in the Home Run Derby last Monday, which is why his arms were sore in the days after the event. Schwarber lost in the finals to Bryce Harper — and after it was over, the Cubs’ outfielder said he thought this was the best possible result: Harper winning in front of his home crowd.

• Jacob deGrom pitches against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball amid a lot of speculation about his future with the Mets. His agent has called for clarification of his situation — a contract extension or a trade … despite the fact that the 30-year-old deGrom really doesn’t have a lot of leverage at this moment; he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. But the Mets have been in the vortex of a lot of media and fan criticism this summer, and the pressure to lock up their biggest star might continue to grow.

• Cardinals interim manager Mike Shildt’s first job in baseball was as a clubhouse attendant for the Double-A Charlotte Orioles. In the summer of 1980, it was his job to shine the shoes of Cal Ripken Jr. Shildt’s mom worked for the team, and he got his first paid assignment when he was 8 years old — retrieving foul balls, for $5 a game. Shildt remembers being expected to generate at least two fouls per game, and if he came back with one, well, there was some question about whether he’d get his $5. Baseball Tonight Podcast