Social Media

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

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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.

Cubs sign Brett Anderson to a $3.5 million deal

Brett Anderson
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Cubs have signed pitcher Brett Anderson to a contract, pending a physical. Anderson, apparently, impressed the Cubs during a bullpen session held in Arizona recently. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the deal is for $3.5 million, but incentives can bring the total value up to $10 million.

Anderson, 28, has only made a total of 53 starts and 12 relief appearances over the past five seasons due to a litany of injuries. This past season, he made just three starts and one relief appearance, yielding 15 runs on 25 hits and four walks with five strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings. The lefty dealt with back, wrist, and blister issues throughout the year.

When he’s healthy, Anderson is a solid arm to have at the back of a starting rotation or in the bullpen. The defending world champion Cubs aren’t risking much in bringing him on board.

Yordano Ventura’s remaining contract hinges on the results of his toxicology report

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides an interesting window into how teams handle a player’s contract after he has died in an accident. It was reported on Sunday that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. He had three guaranteed years at a combined $19.25 million as well as two $12 million club options with a $1 million buyout each for the 2020-21 seasons.

What happens to that money? Well, that depends on the results of a toxicology report, Rosenthal explains. If it is revealed that Ventura was driving under the influence, payment to his estate can be nullified. The Royals may still choose to pay his estate some money as a gesture of good will, but they would be under no obligation to do so. However, if Ventura’s death was accidental and not caused by his driving under the influence, then his contract remains fully guaranteed and the Royals would have to pay it towards his estate. The Royals would be reimbursed by insurance for an as yet unknown portion of that contract.

The results of the toxicology report won’t be known for another three weeks, according to Royals GM Dayton Moore. Dominican Republic authorities said that there was no alcohol found at the scene.

Ventura’s situation is different than that of Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident this past September. Fernandez was not under contract beyond 2016. He was also legally drunk and cocaine was found in his system after the accident. Still, it is unclear whether or not Fernandez was driving the boat. As a result, his estate will receive an accidental death payment of $1.05 million as well as $450,000 through the players’ standard benefits package, Rosenthal points out.