The simmering tension between the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association was recently expressed yet again when the union rejected what Major League Baseball believed would be a change in All-Star voting that would heighten attention for the Midsummer Classic, The Post has learned.
MLB proposed essentially a primary system and a general election for the fan voting. There would be an initial wave of voting in the standard way with a player from each team represented at the position. Then, around mid-June, there would be a cutoff and the top three vote-getters at each position would be in a runoff (starting from zero votes again) with the winner starting at that position.
The hope was that players would take to social media to push candidacies and that would excite fans to further participate and then watch the July 17 game in Washington.
MLB made its initial proposal in early April with no additional compensation for the players before ultimately offering $1.1 million of inducements that would be spread among those who finished in the top three of voting, the participants in the Home Run Derby and the winning All-Star team.
The union said it would only consider accepting if MLB agreed to not only the $1.1 million, but also an equal share of revenue derived from this new process.
MLB was not selling a separate sponsorship to the voting and, therefore, felt there was no way to monetize this new process and that it might be worth nothing.
The union refused to budge off the desire for both elements and by late April the proposal was dead.
In a better environment between the sides, it is hard to believe the union would have rejected this even on a one-year trial basis. This essentially involved no extra work or risk for the players. But particularly after an offseason of slow-moving free agency, the union has become sterner in doing business with MLB.
Union head Tony Clark refused comment as did MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem, who was the lead negotiator on the proposal. A union official who requested anonymity insisted, “We are always looking for ways to add excitement around the game, but both sides have to rise together.”
A baseball official told The Post: “This was purely an effort to try something new in All-Star Game voting to engage our fans and also to provide additional opportunities to market and promote players, which we know is important to them. Although the voting format change imposed no additional obligations or burdens on players, we offered the players very significant compensation for a change of this type mainly as a sign of goodwill going into the 2018 season.”
MLB’s final proposal would have, among other things, doubled the rewards for the Home Run Derby, with the winner going from $125,000 to $250,000, second place getting $125,000 rather than $75,000 and other participants getting a bump from $50,000 to $100,000. The hitter of the longest homer would have received $50,000 rather than $25,000.
The winning All-Star team’s pool money to be shared would have climbed from $640,000 to $800,000.
Also, to allay concerns about players potentially losing All-Star bonuses from their contracts in this new system, the player who led at each position during the primary phase would have received $15,000, second place $5,000 and third place $2,500. Because nine outfielders would have been chosen for the final runoff, the top three would have gotten $15,000, the next three $5,000 and the final three $2,500.
Instead, the old system will stay in place.
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