DUNEDIN, FLA.—The recently announced no-pitch walk rule was born after most Major League Baseball players fell somewhere in the middle of the spectrum — not too for, not too against —baseball’s latest directive, according to the head of the players’ union.
Major League Baseball Players Association’s Executive Director Tony Clark met with Toronto Blue Jays players for nearly two and a half hours here Friday to discuss the latest goings on in the game, just months after MLB owners and players ratified a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.
Following the lengthy forum, Clark told reporters there was no wholesale discussion about the new automatic walk rule, a change that didn’t go over well in Toronto’s clubhouse just days earlier.
“Against the window we were looking to consider things, against the — I won’t call it indifference — but against the backdrop of not feeling strongly one way or another, that was why we found ourselves engaged with this,” Clark said.
Catcher Russell Martin was particularly vocal about the finalized change, and a proposed change to the strike zone, earlier this week, saying it was an unnecessary and that he had heard nothing about before its announcement this week.
But Clark said such decisions are not made in a vacuum. Sometimes, he said, players are not totally engaged and sometimes their focus switches as the season nears.
“You’ve got guys who, as they got closer, focused in on what their job was, you had other guys who weighed in. We sent out information to the entire group as well as that player leadership and we got back the feedback that we got and made the decisions that we made in the near term against the backdrop of the information that we had,” he said.
Normally, Clark said, the players association tries to have these conversations earlier in the off-season, but with finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement and details that continue to be worked out with regard to new rules, the timeline was pushed back.
As for the change to the strike zone, which would see the bottom of the area raised slightly, Clark said he has not received notice from the league that it will unilaterally alter that regulation.
Normally, an agreement with the union is required for rule changes unless MLB gives one year advance notice. Commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this week that he hoped talks would lead to an agreement on other rule changes but also said clubs would reserve the right to act independently.
Clark, who also touched on the off-season trade and free agency market and the upcoming World Baseball Classic during his exchange with media, believes conversations about the strike zone will continue throughout the season said he doesn’t expect anything formal to happen until next off-season.
With files from the Associated Press
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