MLB players’ union head: ‘We will never agree’ to salary cap

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A handful of free-spending owners in Major League Baseball have made some of the other owners in the game a little nervous.

Players’ union boss Tony Clark doesn’t care one bit about this development.

“Baseball is going really well,” Clark said Saturday as he began the first full slate of spring training games in Florida and Arizona.

Clark’s perspective is not shared by all. There is a group of owners, including Bob Nutting of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who believe a recent jump in free agent spending is part of the reason smaller market teams, like the Pirates, are struggling to stay competitive It’s one of the reasons why MLB recently formed a financial reform committee.

“It’s the biggest problem facing the Pittsburgh Pirates,” Nutting told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Friday. “Competitive disparity, income disparity and payroll disparity are all real challenges.”

Clark told ESPN that he believes MLB’s new committee ultimately wants a salary cap like those that exist in several other major professional sports leagues such as the NBA and NFL. He was also adamant that the union would never accept one.

MLB’s attempt to impose a salary cap was a major factor in the 1994 players’ strike that canceled that year’s World Series. The strike finally ended in early 1995 without any wage cap.

This offseason, salaries have increased following last year’s agreement on a five-year labor contract with the players’ association. Payrolls rose 12.6% to $4.56 billion last year, breaking the previous record set in 2017, and are expected to rise even further this year.

The New York Mets, entering their third season under owner Steve Cohen, project a payroll in excess of about $370 million, which would blow out the previous high of $291 million by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015.

Some smaller market teams have even added to the increased spending. The San Diego Padres have been very active in free agency over the past few years, adding standouts like shortstop Xander Bogaerts.

Clark said that’s evidence that teams in markets of all sizes can compete financially and on the field, noting that the Padres have seen an increase in fan interest.

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has big plans for the team this season

New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has big plans for the team this season

“Teams were competing, participating in the free agent market and creating a level of excitement that I think is a positive thing,” Clark said.

There is no doubt that there is economic disparity in baseball. While the Mets are expected to spend around $370 million in payroll, others like the Orioles, Rays, Pirates and Athletics are expected to be in the $60-80 million range.

The causes of this disparity are where the friction between the MLBPA and MLB occurs.

“The question you have to ask when it comes to the payroll of one team versus another is whether that team is making a conscious decision to have the payroll there or whether they have the ability to increase the payroll ” Clark said.

“The answer is the second, not the first.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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