Tony Clark makes a silly threat over an incorrect media report

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Last week there was a report that the players union was interested in restricting or eliminating clubhouse access for the media in the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. It was incorrect — the union is not interested in doing that — and the reporter who wrote it corrected the report. Everyone moved on with their lives.

Mostly, anyway. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark was annoyed at the report. Fair enough. No one likes an inaccurate report. But he seemed to go beyond annoyed. In fact, Clark said that the incorrect report about restricting media access was so annoying that, if there is one more incorrect report about restricting media access, it may cause the players to actually want to restrict media access.

No, that is not hyperbole. That’s exactly what he said:

“Unfortunately, what’s happened over the last 48, 72 hours as a result of somebody offering something that wasn’t true, is players are talking more about it than they were prior to it being offered because they knew it wasn’t on the priority list and they knew there were a number of other things that they wanted to work through. So, I have no interest in cutting access to the clubhouse. If another article pops likes the one that popped 72 hours ago, whatever to-do list we may have that it’s not on now, it may move on to it as a result of players getting more uncomfortable about what and how — what level of professionalism the media has. So, it’s unfortunate what came out.”

I can’t decide if that’s more ridiculous because of the actual implied threat or because of what it says about Clark’s ability to lead his union. “Hey reporters, you better not get any reports wrong or else we’re going to totally change our priorities and seek to mess with you rather than concentrate on the things which do matter to us!”

Can you imagine Marvin Miller, Don Fehr or Michael Weiner saying that? In the course of decades of contentious negotiations there were undoubtedly incorrect reports, likely dealing with far more substantive matters. There is noise when it comes to labor stuff all the time. Sometimes it reflects poorly on the players, sometimes on the owners. And usually it’s far more prominent than a single report from a single reporter in a single (no offense) minor media outlet. Sometimes, as was the case here, the bad information was quickly corrected. But not always. And either way, union leaders always moved on and got on with their jobs. Not Clark, I guess. Or at least not the players he represents, who may be the ones doing the grousing about bad reports which he is now passing along.

I say “represents” rather than “leads” because there is no way a strong union leader would ever make such grousing from the players a public issue like this. A leader may nod and say they understand but then tell them that there are way more important things the union should be doing than complaining about petty P.R. concerns. Rather, it should be focusing on things like the fact that the owners have been eating their lunch for several years now with respect to drug testing, service time manipulation, off-the-field discipline and free agent rules which are inhibiting the market for veterans. Things like the owners’ revenues skyrocketing while the players who have made that possible are getting a smaller and smaller piece of the pie. You know, stuff that matters to them and their well-being.

But hey, if it rattling the media’s cage is so important to Tony Clark and the MLBPA that they’ll bump one or more of those things down the priority list in order to rattle harder, that’s fine. The media will adjust. And I’m sure the owners won’t object for a second. Indeed, they’d probably enjoy it very, very much.