Story About MLB's Arbitration Belt Underscores Labor Tension
New proof of a replica championship belt passed among MLB teams at a year-end arbitration symposium has "emerged as a tangible example of the animosity that could plunge the sport into a bruising labor conflict," according to sources cited by Marc Carig of THE ATHLETIC. For the last several years, The Belt, an "urban legend of sorts," has been "awarded by the league to the team that did most to 'achieve the goals set by the industry.'” Carig: "In other words: The team that did the most to keep salaries down in arbitration." To its creators, it is "nothing more than a morale booster, a nod for a job well done in the unglamorous arena of arbitration." But to others in the industry, it is "emblematic of a climate in which the livelihoods of players can be turned into a parlor game" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/29). MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark responded to The Athletic's story over the weekend, saying, "That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our Players, the game, and the arbitration process." A total of 32 players have "gone to arbitration over the past two winters, with 18 players winning their cases" (USATODAY.com, 3/29).
PLAYERS PUSH BACK: Astros P and player rep Collin McHugh called the existence of the belt "embarrassing." He said, "If you were looking for a way to antagonize players, this would be a great way to do it." In Houston, Chandler Rome noted the tactic "seems to have further frayed an already contentious labor relationship between players and the league that this winter's free agent stagnation escalated" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/31). Pirates P and player rep Jameson Taillon: "I thought it was fake at first. I thought it was an Onion article or something. I didn’t think it was real. ... It just seems tacky to me. It kinda reminds you that we’re just numbers in the system" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/31). Cubs P Brandon Kintzler: "We have short careers and try to get as much money as we can." Kintzler said the "us against them" climate is "too bad because (we need to) work with each other" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/31).