Tony Clark makes a silly threat over an incorrect media report


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.

Jacob deGrom, oft-injured Rangers ace, to have season-ending right elbow surgery

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Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Texas Rangers signed Jacob deGrom to a $185 million, five-year deal in free agency last winter hoping the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner could help them get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and make a push toward winning a World Series.

They also knew the risks, with the pitcher coming off two injury-plagued seasons with the New York Mets.

Even with deGrom sidelined since late April, the AL West-leading Rangers are off to the best start in franchise history – but now will be without their prized acquisition until at least next year. The team said Tuesday that deGrom will have season-ending surgery next week to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

“We’ve got a special group here and to not be able to be out there and help them win, that stinks,” deGrom said, pausing several times with tears in his eyes. “Wanting to be out there and helping the team, it’s a disappointment.”

General manager Chris Young said Tuesday the decision on surgery came after an MRI on deGrom’s ailing right elbow, but the extent of what is required might not be determined until the operation is performed next week.

Tommy John surgery, in which the damaged ligament is replaced, is often needed to fix a torn UCL, but Young and the Rangers didn’t go as far as saying the pitcher would have that particular procedure. After being drafted by the New York Mets in 2010, deGrom made six starts in the minors that summer before needing Tommy John surgery and missing all of 2011, three years before his big league debut.

DeGrom last pitched April 28 against the New York Yankees, when he exited early because of injury concerns for the second time in a span of three starts. The announcement about surgery came a day after deGrom was transferred to the 60-day injured list.

Young said the latest MRI showed more inflammation and significant structural damage in the ligament that wasn’t there on the scan after deGrom left the game against the Yankees.

“The results of that MRI show that we have not made progress. And in fact, we’ve identified some damage to the ligament,” Young said. “It’s obviously a tough blow for Jacob, for certainly the Rangers. But we do feel this is what is right for Jacob in his career. We’re confident he’ll make a full recovery.”

Young and deGrom, who turns 35 later this month, said the goal is for the pitcher to return near the end of next season. Both said they were glad to have clarity on what was wrong with the elbow.

Texas won all six games started by deGrom (2-0), but the right-hander threw only 30 1/3 innings. He has a 2.67 ERA with 45 strikeouts and four walks. He threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings against the Yankees in his last start before leaving because of discomfort in his arm.

The Rangers went into Tuesday night’s game against St. Louis with a 39-20 record, the first time they were 19 games over .500 since the end of 2016, their last winning season.

Before going home to Florida over the weekend for the birth of his third child, deGrom threw his fifth bullpen last Wednesday in Detroit.

“I’d have days where I’d feel really good, days where I didn’t feel great. So I was kind of riding a roller coaster there for a little bit,” deGrom said. “They said originally there, we just saw some inflammation. … Getting an MRI right after you pitch, I feel like anybody would have inflammation. So, you know, I was hoping that that would get out of there and I would be fine. But it just didn’t work out that way.”

DeGrom spent his first nine big league seasons with the Mets, but was limited by injuries to 156 1/3 innings over 26 starts during his last two years in New York.

He had a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021 before missing the final three months of the season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow.

The four-time All-Star didn’t make his first big league start last year until Aug. 2 after being shut down late in spring training because of a stress reaction in his right scapula.

His latest injury almost surely will trigger Texas’ conditional option on deGrom’s contract for 2028.

The option takes effect if deGrom has Tommy John surgery on his right elbow from 2023-26 or has any right elbow or shoulder injury that causes him to be on the IL for any period of 130 consecutive days during any season or 186 days in a row during any service period.

The conditional option would be for $20 million, $30 million or $37 million, depending on deGrom’s performance during the contract and health following the 2027 season.

“I feel bad for Jake. If I know Jake, he’ll have the surgery and come back and finish his career strong,” second-year Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “I know how much it means to him. He enjoys pitching. It’s certainly sad news for all of us.”