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.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.

Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.