Ken Rosenthal spoke to Tony Clark, head of the MLBPA. The topic: smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn was a personal hero of Clark’s, and Rosenthal asked him if Gwynn’s death — almost certainly caused by smokeless tobacco use — was enough to get the union to either push for or agree to a ban on smokeless tobacco among major league ballplayers.
Clark’s answer: a diplomatic “no”:
“The MLBPA continues to discourage the use of smokeless tobacco products by its members or by anyone else. As you know, the subject of their use is a collective bargaining issue, and new regulations regarding the use of smokeless tobacco products were introduced in the last round of bargaining. In general terms, included in the smokeless tobacco policy negotiated in 2011 are restrictions/prohibitions on its use, increased emphasis on education and cessation programs, as well as oral examinations. At this point in time, Player education continues to be a focus of ours.”
I can’t say I have a problem with that.
I’d never use the stuff. I’d strongly urge anyone else not to. If I was in government I’d consider taxing/regulating it to bring its actual cost as a product in line with the medical and social costs it inflicts on taxpayers and society. And I would certainly make great efforts to keep it away from kids. But the stuff is legal and ballplayers are adults. They’re stupid adults if they use it despite the clear health risks it occasions, but part of being an adult is having the freedom to make dumb choices.
Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.
Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”
Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.
The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.