Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, talked to the media on Tuesday as part of the MLB All-Star Game festivities. Clark touched on numerous topics during his availability, but the highlight of the event was him acknowledging he has proposed abolishing the amateur draft as part of previous bargaining sessions.
Here are some notable quotables:
MLBPA boss Tony Clark said he suggested at the bargaining table totally eliminating the draft, since it inherently limits players’ options.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) July 9, 2019
Rob Manfred, noting the possibility of an international draft, said a draft is “the best mechanism for entry” into professional baseball.
Tony Clark says at the bargaining table he suggested ending the draft, which he says inherently limits opportunities for entry into the game.— Alex Speier (@alexspeier) July 9, 2019
Asked Tony Clark if he thinks the draft is inherently anti-labor and he cut me off to say:— Hannah Keyser (@HannahRKeyser) July 9, 2019
The draft can be viewed as an anti-labor mechanism in multiple regards. It prevents young players from choosing their own employer, and it is structured in a way to suppress earnings. Since hard slotting and bonus pools were implemented in 2012, the average No. 1 pick -- ostensibly the player with the most leverage -- has received a signing bonus barely exceeding the one given to Tim Beckham back in 2008. Keep in mind: league revenue has increased from around $6 billion prior to the 2008 season, to over $10 billion following last season.
Generally, the argument for the draft centers around the idea it promotes parity. Cheap talent is like catnip to teams, however, and that obsession has made tanking a more socially acceptable strategy. Given the league-wide drop in attendance appears to be in part due to the horrid nature of some of the sport's worst teams, it might be worth considering alternative methods.
The chances of the draft going away are slim to none, of course. If anything, the draft is likely to be expanded, or joined by a separate one focused on the international market. The most probable outcome isn't Clark getting the draft abolished, but rather him using it as a negotiating chip to either land the players something of value or fend off an unwanted imposition.
Most amateur players will never be members of the union, under Clark's watch or otherwise. But, seeing as how Clark is the face of labor in baseball, it's progress to see him acknowledge certain truths -- even if he's almost certainly not going to be able to enact actual change.