Are parts of baseball’s new social media policy … illegal?


As we reported the other day, Major League Baseball released its new social media policy.  And it’s good.

But do parts of it run afoul of federal labor laws?

That’s the question asked by lawyer Eric B. Meyer of The Employer Handbook blog.  He suggests that some of the prohibitions in the policy violate parts of the National Labor Relations Act which protect employees who engage in protected concerted activity. Which is a legal term of art meaning “employees can’t be prohibited from discussing working conditions.”

Meyer’s point is that the social media policy prohibition against disparaging umpires inhibits that. For example, if two ballplayers were on Twitter discussing the state of umpiring — a condition which has a direct bearing on players’ ability to do their job — that the NLRB would find that to be protected employee speech.

I’m no labor lawyer so I don’t have any particular expertise here, but I suppose I can see that. I’m curious, though, about  exceptions to that rule (there are always exceptions). Exceptions that cite other reasons — besides inhibiting employee communication — for the prohibition. For example, you know that two CIA agents wouldn’t be allowed to discuss the crappy food provided by the agency at the safe house where they debrief their Iranian double agents, right?

Baseball wouldn’t have a security argument, of course, but it would likely say that public discussions of the umpires would undermine the consumer’s confidence in the product, not that it’s simply bad for management that players are discussing it.  Maybe there are other reasons that would invoke exceptions. Anyone with any NLRA insight here is invited to comment.

Probably moot anyway. Because most bitching about umpires is done solo, and as Meyer notes, just one person complaining on Twitter is not protected by the NLRA.  And I’m really having a hard time seeing two players engaging in those kinds of conversations on social media.

Henderson Alvarez signs with Tigres de Quintana Roo

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Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.

The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.

That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.