FORT MYERS, Fla. — Leaders of the Major League Baseball Players Association met with Red Sox players and coaches for approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes Tuesday morning, and while such meetings are held with all 30 teams during spring training, the context for this one was slightly different.
Much of the conversation between MLBPA officials and the Red Sox focused on questions related to sign-stealing and the investigation.
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said the league has finished its interviews, leaving everyone to await the findings, which will not be finished this week, according to an industry source.
“As of right now, we understand that the interviews that they were going to have and did have as well as the information they were gathering from beyond the player interviews has all happened,” said Clark. “Now we’re just waiting for the decision itself.”
While manager Ron Roenicke said Tuesday that the Red Sox look forward to having the investigation behind the team, Clark suggested that the players have accepted the nature of the deliberate process.
“I think they understand the process,” said Clark. “Obviously everybody is looking forward to the 2020 season and would like to put this behind them.”
Clark said that players are clearly interested in the question of fairness moving forward. As such, he expects new regulations regarding sign stealing and the in-game use of technology by Opening Day — and he said players and the MLBPA are open in the future to punishing players who violate such rules. (Both Astros and Red Sox players were granted immunity in MLB’s investigations in return for testimony.)
Clark touched on several other topics:
■ He questioned the Red Sox’ rationale for trading Mookie Betts.
“Boston made whatever decision they made for whatever reason they made it,” said Clark. “I think that a face of our game, someone that should be more a face of our game, being put in that position, I don’t think it was necessary.
“I know they’ve offered some commentary publicly, but you’d have to ask Boston as to why that’s the case. We simply believe that Mookie is a generational talent. And the idea that he is no longer here is one that we just didn’t believe was necessary.”
■ He believes that teams are treating the luxury tax threshold ($208 million in 2020) as an excuse to cap payroll in a way that wasn’t anticipated when the current collective bargaining agreement was negotiated, and vowed that there would be changes to the luxury tax before the next agreement.
“We think there are a number of aspects in our CBA that need to be addressed,” he said. “If the competitive balance tax is being used in the fashion that it’s being used and the excuse that it’s being used for, then it’s something we’re going to look at.
“The assumptions that we made were predicated on what it was that teams had been doing in the past. What we’ve seen, though, is a dramatic change and shift in how those teams are functioning against the backdrop of how they may have functioned five or 10 years ago. As a result, we’re going to need to modernize the system to reflect the changes that we’re seeing.”
■ He suggested that the erupting sign-stealing scandal is an outgrowth of an industry that is awash in technology and the hunt for inefficiencies and competitive advantage but hasn’t taken the time to think through all of the implications of rapid change.
“We believe it’s a product of the culture, top-down, in a number of organizations,” said Clark. “I’ve said that, and I will continue to say that, despite what it is that was in the opinion — while recognizing that nobody is looking to suggest that players weren’t a part of the process.
“The culture that exists is one that, with technology being left unchecked, is manifesting itself on and off the field in ways that aren’t beneficial to the game.”
■ While MLB and the MLBPA opened the door to a reconsideration of the game’s economic foundation a year ago — a rare offer in the middle of a CBA — Clark said there “was dialogue, [but] not much in the way of progress” from those conversations.
“The lines of communication are still open,” he added.