MLB announces new anti-sexual orientation discrimination and harassment policies

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Back in 2011, MLB and the MLBPA added anti-sexual discrimination language into their collective bargaining agreement for the first time. On Monday the league and the union, in conjunction with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, announced a copy of a new Workplace Code of Conduct aimed at protecting current and future MLB players from discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. The league and union also agreed to new training policies as well as a centralized complaint system for reporting incidents involving harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Some specifics seem aimed at the folks who may have the most power to craft first impressions of young players who may be gay: scouts and farm directors. As part of the policy the league will disseminate materials on sexual orientation non-discrimination to all club scouting and farm directors involved in the acquisition of amateur talent.

This seems pretty savvy to me because if a player is going to be adversely impacted based on perceptions of his sexual orientation, the greatest impact could theoretically come because the gatekeepers are the ones perceiving it. I mean, if someone is at Double-A hitting .360, people will probably be OK no matter what he’s all about. But when that first impression comes prejudice and discrimination could impact his ability to get a fair shake. Indeed, one line about his “makeup” in a scouting report could make all the difference in the world.

Bud Selig and union chief Michael Weiner each issued statements about the new policy. Selig:

“I expect all those who represent Major League Baseball, as a social institution that has important social responsibilities, to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that our game’s diverse players, employees and fans deserve. We welcome all individuals regardless of sexual orientation into our ballparks, along with those of different races, religions, genders and national origins. Both on the field and away from it, Major League Baseball has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and discrimination based on sexual orientation.”

Weiner:

“The Major League Baseball Players Association supports and promotes a discrimination-free workplace, and firmly believes that every individual is entitled to pursue his or her career in an environment that is free of any type of harassing behavior. Additionally, the MLBPA embraces diversity and supports a workplace environment that welcomes all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation.”

I find it interesting that the New York Attorney General is the one sort of pushing this — the press release announces him working with the NFL too, so apparently he has decided sports leagues with headquarters in New York are priorities — but no matter what the inspiration, it’s good to see the league address this now rather than have to do so later as the result of some unfortunate high-profile incident.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.