I don’t know if the union did everything it could in defending Alex Rodriguez in his arbitration, but it is apparently doing a piss-poor job of explaining to its players that threatening other union members for exercising their legal rights in appealing discipline from the league is a pretty dumb precedent for a union to set.
That’s what, according to this report from Jeff Passan and Tim Brown of Yahoo!, MLBPA players reps attempted to do when Alex Rodriguez filed his lawsuit against the MLBPA following the arbitrator’s decision handing him a 162-game suspension. Player reps voted to have him expelled, only to be told it wasn’t legally possible. Then one of them told Passan and Brown that, if A-Rod plays again, he should be hit “and hit hard” He then compared A-Rod unfavorably to Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta because, unlike A-Rod, “they took their medicine.” Moreover:
“[Rodriguez] needs to be scared of coming back and facing people he sued. If he can’t fear the wrath of getting kicked out or not being included, he’s going to be forced out.”
This is crazy. As I noted two weeks ago, suing the MLBPA is a legal prerequisite for having his suspension overturned pursuant to Section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. Rodriguez has an exceedingly small chance of success, of course, but if he or any other player who ever wishes to appeal an adverse arbitration result to federal court has any shot of winning, he has to name the union in the lawsuit.
Is A-Rod being a jerk? Yeah, probably. Do players have a right to hate him? Sure, who doesn’t hate him at this point? But there’s a big difference between hating a guy and actually attempting to blackball a guy from the union and then suggesting he’ll be physically harmed simply because he is exercising his legal rights in a labor fight with management. That’s the kind of thing that, no matter how good it feels to do when someone like A-Rod is involved, seriously undermines a union’s power and legitimacy and hampers its efforts to help less unpopular players who find themselves wanting to exercise their rights in the future.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: