Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Michael Weiner has met with seven teams so far this spring, and his latest stop was in Yankees camp. It was a reminder that Yankees fans aren’t the only ones with reason to hope Hal Steinbrenner backs away from his plan to cut payroll.
“I can’t say it concerns me,” Weiner said. “I imagine Mr. Steinbrenner is sincere when he says that, but like a lot of things, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Obviously the Players Association is happy when the Yankees — or any team, really — is spending big money. Weiner seems to believe the Yankees cuts will be either temporary or non-existent.
“We knew when we negotiated the last basic agreement that there were certain incentives built in for the Yankees to drop their payroll,” Weiner said. “One of them is for any club that has crossed the threshold a multiple number of times. It used to be that if they went down (below the luxury tax) one year, they got a reduced tax rate but not very much of a reduced tax rate. Now, a team like the Yankees that has blown past our threshold every single year that we’ve had it, if they go under for one year, they zero out and they go back to 17.5 percent. If the Yankees decide to drop their payroll to do that, I’m not concerned, because they’re dropping their payroll to put themselves in position to greatly increase their payroll the next year. That incentive was understood.
“The market disqualification (making large-market teams gradually ineligible for revenue sharing) was part of it. I’m much more skeptical about that incentive for the Yankees. You can throw out all kinds of different numbers as to what the Yankees might garner from the market disqualification pool, but I think when the numbers are in, that pool is going to be much, much smaller than the Yankees or some people have suggested it’s going to be. It depends on what the increase in revenues of Toronto is, and Toronto is going to have a lot of increased revenue. It’s going to depend on the increased revenue of the Nationals, and the Nationals project a lot of increased revenue. It’s going to be what the Braves do, and the Braves are projecting substantial increases in revenue.
“If the Yankees decide to go below 189 — and we’ll see, the Yankees are the Yankees and I’m sure it will depend on a number of factors — I’m really not overly concerned. If they go below, they go below, and they’ll be in a position to come back. I’m actually pleased overall with the way that market disqualification provision has worked to give teams like those that I mentioned a real incentive to grow their revenue. It seems to have worked pretty well.”
Is the Players Association concerned with the recent Biogenesis reports?
“I guess the answer is yes, you’re always concerned when this kind of thing happens. There’s a process that will play out. We are expeditiously meeting with any player whose name has surfaced to see whether there is anything there. MLB will have its opportunity to investigate these people, and if more names come out, we’ll follow that as well. It is a concern that more names are seemingly attached to this story, but at this point, until we get a chance to actually talk to our guys, they’re only seemingly attached to this story. Some of them are attached because they had some link with this doctor, with Bosch, or they had a link with the lab. Some of them have no link at all with PEDs, even if you accepted what the stories say.”
Do the players seem sick of the ongoing problem of steroids in baseball?
“That is the view of the players. I use those words in my talk. I said, ‘I know you guys are sick of this subject and I know you want a clean game.’ The players understand that we have a statutory, a legal obligation to represent any player who is subject to discipline or accused of wrongdoing, but the players also understand that we have also have a legal obligation to the joint drug program. There’s no mistake as to where the sentiment of the players are; Mark (Teixeira) is right, they are sick of this issue. They would much rather focus on all the positives that the game of baseball is producing. If there is something going on, whether it’s in Miami or otherwise, they want us to get to the bottom of it.”
Do players think the testing process is working?
“The thinking of both the union and the commissioner’s office this offseason when we made changes was — this is a fairly standard tenet of criminal justice, as well — that the best way to deter conduct is to make it more likely that you’re going to get caught. Increasing the severity of the penalties has limited usefulness if people think they’re going to get away with something. At that point, both the commissioner’s office and the players association viewed the penalties we have as strong and clearly sufficient – they’re stronger than any other team sport. We increased the number and year-round nature of HGH testing, we increased and improved our testosterone testing, and the message that has gone out to players is, ‘I can’t promise you you’re going to get caught, because we don’t test you every single day, but you’re likely to get caught if you try to cheat the system. We’re getting more and more sophisticated.’ We’ll see how that works. Increasing the likelihood of detection was really the major joint priority of us and the commissioner’s office this offseason.”
Does the union discourage players from going to a clinic like Biogenesis?
“We give players advice, even on things that aren’t necessarily illegal. We give players advice on what supplements to use, for example, but we can’t require them to use supplements that have been certified under our joint program, but you’re running a risk if you use a different one. If a player is involved with an individual, an institution or an entity whose reputation is suspect, we’re going to say to you, ‘Look, you’re a Major League Baseball player; that may not be the smartest thing to do whether you violated the program or not.’”
Associated Press photos