MLBPA’s Tony Clark on uniform issues, ‘interesting’ free-agent market, A’s next home


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CLEARWATER, Fla. — Can Major League Baseball and its players union work together to quell the torrent of player complaints this spring about the new uniforms?

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark told The Athletic on Wednesday that “work is being done to mitigate” the players’ concerns. But Clark stopped short of specifying what sort of work that was or what adjustments might result from it.

“I think the information and the experience that guys have on the ground is speaking for itself,” Clark said after a meeting with Phillies players in Clearwater. “And we’re hopeful, at least based on solid public comments at this point, that work is being done to mitigate it being a topic of discussion any longer than necessary.”

Spring training started two weeks ago — and player complaints about the new uniforms started about 30 seconds later. Players were unaware until they arrived in camps that MLB had changed uniform designs to the Nike Vapor Premier, which is manufactured by Fanatics.

Those complaints have centered on just about every aspect of the new uniforms, from how they fit and the length of the new pants to the size of lettering and the quality of the material. Players also have made it clear they believe the response from Nike and the league has been vague and unsatisfying.

“Everyone is aware of the concerns,” Clark said Wednesday. “So whether it’s the league or it’s Nike, everyone is aware of those concerns. And (the league and Nike) have suggested in public statements, and otherwise, that they’re engaged with an eye on correcting what can be corrected.”

MLBPA head Tony Clark, pictured during last year’s World Series, spoke with The Athletic on Wednesday after meeting with the Phillies players. (Daniel Shirey / MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Clark declined to comment further and suggested The Athletic pose questions to MLB about what might come next. A league spokesperson responded to those questions with a statement that MLB issued earlier this spring.

The statement said that representatives of MLB, Nike and Fanatics “are visiting camps to meet with all players … like every spring training.” The statement went on to say that as part of uniform fitting sessions, players are asked to give “feedback on how their uniform fits.”

As a result of player requests, the statement continued, “adjustments are being made to jersey size, waist, in-seam, length, thigh fit and the bottom of their pants. The goal of these meetings is to provide players with the most comfortable uniforms available for Opening Day.”

Players have disputed that account, however, saying that during those uniform fittings, they have been offered only three sizing options, as opposed to the more custom fittings they’d received in the past. Some teams, as The Athletic has reported, don’t even have enough uniform pants to furnish their entire spring rosters. But the league, in its statement, said: “We are in close contact with our Clubs and uniform partners to ensure Clubs have what they need for Opening Day.”

When The Athletic asked if the league could provide more specifics on how player concerns might be addressed, MLB declined to comment beyond the statement. So it appears that Uniform Gate won’t be subsiding any time soon.

On Wednesday, Clark addressed other topics in his conversation with The Athletic:

THE STATE OF THE FREE AGENT MARKET — Clark described this still-sluggish free-agent winter as “interesting” because it was so different from the aggressive pursuit of free agents in the previous two offseasons. As of Wednesday, FanGraphs’ Roster Resource listed more than 70 unsigned free agents, including stars such as Blake Snell, Jordan Montgomery, J.D. Martinez and Matt Chapman, along with Brandon Belt, Joey Votto and others. Eight of the top 40 free agents (and three of the top 10), as ranked by The Athletic’s Big Board at the start of the offseason, remain available. 

“I find it hard to believe any time major-league players, that can help teams win ballgames, are unsigned,” Clark said.

But when the conversation turned to the uncertainty of many teams about the future of regional sports networks and local TV revenues, and how those clubs say their spending has been impacted by that uncertainty, Clark expressed skepticism about whether that was the real reason they’d largely stayed out of the free-agent market.

“The league has been very aware this day was coming for some time,” he said. “And as you’ve heard them offer publicly, … they’ve suggested that they positioned themselves accordingly to react to it.”

Clark declined to comment further on his suggestion that those clubs have found alternative revenue streams to fill in that revenue gap. But it seems likely he was referring to small-market teams’ increased share of several types of shared revenue — as well as a big chunk of the largest pool of luxury-tax payments in baseball history.

According to the Associated Press, eight teams combined to pay a record $209.8 million in luxury taxes last season. But little attention has been paid to the fact that many of the clubs dealing with local TV issues are eligible to receive payouts from that luxury-tax pool.

Baseball’s labor deal stipulates that about 50 percent of that $209.8 million would go to teams facing revenue challenges, according to a complicated formula spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement. But are those alternative revenue streams enough to solve every team’s worries about the future of local TV? Clark would only hint at how he viewed that answer.

THE HOME OF THE A’S — Once again, Clark said that the search for a new temporary home of the Oakland/soon-to-be Las Vegas A’s needs to be completed “the sooner the better.”

The A’s appear to be closing in on an agreement for where they will play in 2025, ’26 and ’27, while they await their debut season in Vegas in 2028. But Clark said everyone involved needs to know as soon as possible.

“The sooner that it can be figured out the better,” he said. “The better for all involved, particularly the players and the fans — the Oakland A’s fans that have been long-standing there and the players themselves who may be thinking about what the years to come may look like and where they might call home. The sooner the answers to those questions can be provided, the better I think everyone’s going to feel.”



What we know — and don’t — about MLB’s ongoing issues with Nike uniforms



Nike’s MLB uniform rollout reaches new stage of frustration — a pants shortage



MLB players dressing down Nike, Fanatics over new uniforms that look ‘like a replica’



As Oakland A’s explore Coliseum lease extension, fan relations remain fraught

(Top photo of Kris Bryant and Drew Romo in the new uniforms: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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