The Major League Baseball Players Association is firing back at the commissioner after Rob Manfred made comments rejecting the notion that investing in payroll equates to success.
"Commissioner Manfred's latest comments and his attempts to shift blame and distract from the main issues are unconstructive and misleading at best," executive director Tony Clark said in a statement.
"Players' eyes don't deceive them, nor do fans'. As Players report to spring training and see respected veterans and valued teammates on the sidelines, they are rightfully frustrated by a two-year attack on free agency. Players commit to compete every pitch of every at-bat, and every inning of every game. Yet we're operating in an environment in which an increasing number of clubs appear to be making little effort to improve their rosters, compete for a championship or justify the price of a ticket.
"Players have made a sincere attempt to engage with clubs on their proposals to improve pace of play and enhance the game's appeal to fans. At the same time, we have presented wide-ranging ideas that value substance over seconds and ensure the best Players are on the field every day. We believe these substantive changes are imperative now - not in 2022 or 2025, but in 2019," the statement continued.
Clark is responding to a recent press conference during which Manfred commented on the state of free agency and how teams opting not to sign players doesn't necessarily harm the product on the field.
"I reject that payroll is a measure of how much teams are trying or how successful that team is going to be," the commissioner said on Sunday, as transcribed by Eduardo A. Encina of the Tampa Bay Times. "Baseball has always been a cyclical business. People have gone through a cycle of building their teams by going young, husbanding their resources, and trying to get a group that comes together as a team in the quintessential team sport.
"I just don't buy the idea that running around spending money is necessarily indicative of whether or not you're going to be successful on the field. I mean, one of the team's that finished with the worst record in baseball last year - I think the worst record in baseball - was one of the biggest spenders in the free-agent market last year and nobody ever points that out."
Manfred seems to be alluding to the Baltimore Orioles, who finished with a historically bad 47-115 record after opting to sign both Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner when teams had already reported for spring training. Despite these late signings, the Orioles entered the 2018 campaign with a $130-million payroll, which sat below the league average.
Conversely, the Boston Red Sox famously won the World Series after blowing by the luxury tax threshold with a $227-million payroll.
On Monday, Chicago Cubs owner Tom Ricketts answered for his club's slow offseason, claiming the team doesn't "have any more (money)." According to Forbes, the Cubs are the third-most valuable franchise in MLB, currently listed at $2.9 billion and making $457 million in revenue.
While teams are conducting full-team workouts at spring training facilities, superstars like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado - who seemed poised to sign record deals - remain unsigned, along with well-respected veterans like Adam Jones.