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Is the Sticky Stuff Crackdown a leverage play by MLB?

Sometimes I wish MLB commissioner Rob Manfred would watch The Godfather and take notes when Don Corleone says the infamous line, “I’m gonna make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

In this case, Major League Baseball faces a pivotal negotiation with the league’s union (MLBPA) period this fall, as the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires on Dec. 1.

Why is this so significant? Glad you asked.

This season has been one of the strangest yet most magical seasons in recent memory. Shoehi Ohtani is performing at a level that no one has ever seen, ranking third in the league in RBI’s (63) while also leading the league in home runs (28).

The San Francisco Giants are leading the NL West and don’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon, and Jacob DeGrom, when healthy (I can’t emphasize that enough), is putting up a gaudy 0.69 ERA as we approach the All Star break.

HOWEVER, all of that has completely changed with Major League Baseball now enforcing crackdowns on substances used by pitchers, which has already led to some memorable confrontations.

Exhibit A: Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer loses it after Phillies skipper Joe Girardi asked for a substance check

Yikes, even though the Phillies have been horrendous, even that’s tough to watch.

Exhibit B: Seattle Mariners pitcher Hector Santiago was checked by umpires, removed from the game, and suspended by the league for ten games. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported via Twitter Santiago will appeal the suspension.

Exhibit C: Josh Donaldson trash talking White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito after launching a rocket to left field. Donaldson yelled, “Not sticky anymore” while rubbing his hands as he crossed home plate.

All of this is to simply ask, is the MLB focusing on foreign pitching substances to create chaos and division within the union?

Now, this may seem ridiculous on the surface. Why would a league want bickering amongst its laborers, especially when baseball is as boring as golf?

As legendary television producer Don Ohlmeyer bluntly stated, “If your question is about sports, the answer to your question is money.”

Unlike the NBA, NFL, or even the NHL, professional baseball club owners have desperately tried clinging onto the upper hand in labor relationships with the players, dating back to the reserve clause, which prevented player movement unless the organization traded or released a player first, that was introduced in 1887.

That hunger for power has carried on for centuries, which makes the upcoming CBA renewal even more significant. Remember, the league and the union never agreed to a new deal before the 60-game 2020 season. The negotiations ended with Manfred mandating a 60-game season that started in late July.

Just this past May, the MLBA filed a $500 million lawsuit against the league, basically seeking compensation for more games that were not played due to the pandemic, according to Forbes. In addition, the league filed a countersuit against the union, proclaiming that the 60-game season model was used to comply with health protocols, per Forbes.

Clearly, tensions are high on both sides and Major League Baseball’s owners are hellbent on keeping the leverage over its union and the biggest criticism of suppressing these foreign substances has been why now?

Coming out of the All-Star break, foreign substances on baseball will remain a hot topic around the league, which is no surprise but could it lead to an even larger issue of a divided union? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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