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.

Report: The White Sox and Diamondbacks are in on Manny Machado

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Buster Olney of ESPN reports that the White Sox and Diamondbacks have emerged as two of the strongest contenders for Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. It seems like a foregone conclusion that Baltimore will deal their superstar infielder this winter, but nothing appears imminent just yet. While both the White Sox and D-backs have reportedly made serious offers, Orioles owner Peter Angelos is wary of any non-contending team that might be incentivized to flip Machado to the rival Yankees next season.

The White Sox, for their part, have assured the Orioles that they view Machado more as a solid one-year rental than the new face of their franchise, with no immediate plans to deal him elsewhere. Given their current rebuilding status and the unlikelihood that they would contend in 2018, it makes their offer a bit of a head-scratcher — and, as USA Today Sports’ Bob Nightengale points out, they’ve been reluctant to put any top-5 prospects on the table in preliminary negotiations.

The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are far better positioned to enter the postseason in 2018, though that doesn’t automatically make them the perfect landing spot for Machado. They already have Jake Lamb stationed at third base, and while it’s not inconceivable that they could jettison the Ketel Marte/Chris Owings/Nick Ahmed shortstop platoon for someone of Machado’s talent, his $17 million salary appears to be more than the D-backs are currently capable of absorbing.

The White Sox and D-backs may have exhibited the most interest in Machado so far, but they’re hardly the only contenders here. MASN Sports’ Roch Kubatko maintains that the Cardinals and Yankees remain in discussions for the 25-year-old, with Cardinals’ RHP Jordan Hicks and catcher Carson Kelly drawing interest, as well as Yankees’ top prospect Gleyber Torres. Any deal involving the Yankees still feels like a long shot, however; as Craig mentioned on Wednesday, it makes sense that the club wouldn’t want to see their star player hanging around their division rivals in 2018, and the Yankees should be well prepared to make a run at him in free agency next winter.