Tony Clarke, MLB's MLB Chief Executive Officer, issued a statement that has rejected the recent comments of MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, in which the latter rejected the idea that tanks teams led to a depressed free agents market. Said Manfred (link via Associated Press):
… Our teams are trying. Each of them wants to win. It may look slightly different from outsiders because the game has changed, the way people think about the game, the way people think about assembling a winning team has changed, but that does not mean it's not try. …
I think it's important to remember that the Major League Baseball Association has always wanted a market system. And markets are changing. Especially when the institution around these markets changes. We had a lot of changes in the game. People think about the players differently. They analyze the players in a different way. They negotiate differently. Agents negotiate differently. […] I reject the notion that wages are a good measure of how much a team is trying or how successful a team will be.
It is not surprising that Clark also takes advantage of the idea that each team is trying to win, and with Manfred's apparent experience to say that players are partly responsible for the lack of free activity. His comments today are as follows:
Commissioner Manfred's latest comments and attempts to shift blame and distraction from the main issues are unconstructive and misleading at best.
The players' eyes do not mislead them, nor do the fans. As players report spring training and see reputable veterans and valuable teammates on the sidelines, they are rightly disappointed with a two-year attack on a free agency. Players commit to compete in every step of each tide and every inning of each game. Still, we work in an environment where more and more clubs seem to be making little effort to improve their lists, compete for a championship or justify the ticket price.
Players have made a sincere effort to engage with clubs on their suggestions to improve the pace of play and increase the attractiveness of the game to fans. At the same time, we presented a wide range of ideas that value the essence in seconds and ensure that the best players are on the ground every day. We believe that these major changes are now imperative ̵1; not in 2022 or 2025, and in 2019 we look forward to continuing to work with the MLB on changes that address important issues – for the benefit of fans, players, -the club and the game of Baseball as a whole ..
Obviously there is some disagreement as to what the team means to try on that day. One can not deny Manfred's question that the market is changing, although of course it is something else, but not an unregulated arena. The teams respond to the incentives established in the collective bargaining process and are doing so with increasing attention to economic rationality. However, creating a potentially expansive window of disputes in an efficient way often means sacrificing short-term improvements for longer-term flexibility. And there is certainly a reasonable argument that many teams do not try – or at least do not do it as much as they would be preferable from the point of view of creating a competitive and fun product.
Each event is just the last word exchange in the ongoing battle for the cost of the player contract team. Clark pointed out that players can still engage in talks on several proposed changes to the rules, although the league's position seems to be that the Union's efforts should not be accepted until a new collective agreement is discussed. Currently, both sides are fighting for a position in the field of public perception and their own direct voters.