Pete Alonso and player solidarity in labor issues

Do you know who the Mets’ player representative to the MLBPA is? Off the top of my head there was a blank but after looking it up and hearing the name, it rang a bell. Give up yet – ok, this is the last sentence before the reveal. The Mets’ player rep is Michael Conforto.

There was no obvious guy in my mind for the gig. Actually, it’s kind of a feel-good story to hear that it’s Conforto. You want the stars to be front and center articulating the union’s position. It’s better for Conforto to be there than, say, the backup catcher.

What got me thinking about this in the first place was the thought that Pete Alonso would make a good player rep. Yeah, you’d prefer a veteran over a guy with just one year of experience but Alonso is hardly your typical young guy. From a distance, he certainly seems to exude leadership qualities, whether that was leading the walkoff rip-off-the-shirt celebrations or coming up with #LFGM. And on top of that, Alonso was one of the first athletes to voice support for MLBPA leader Tony Clark’s statement of, “Tell us when and where” with regards to beginning the 2020 season.

Nobody wants to hear money squabbles between the billionaire owners and the millionaire players. Just for the record, my sympathies are completely with the players in this regard. My opinion is that the reason we saw all of the public negotiations around money and the start of the abbreviated 2020 season was because the owners were using it as a trial balloon for the upcoming CBA negotiations.

For three decades, we saw the union consistently stick together in various negotiations with the owners and each time, it seemed to catch the owners off guard. Amazingly, things seemed to get better once Bud Selig, a notorious troublemaker as an individual owner, had to shepherd the other owners through the ’94-’95 labor issues. We’ve been without a labor stoppage and enjoyed relative labor piece for nearly 25 years now.

It’s not a huge surprise that the owners were curious to test the players’ resolve. After all, no current player was active the last time the game was shut down. Just because there was solidarity a generation ago, doesn’t mean the same spirit exists today.

But it’s impossible for any objective observer to look at what we’ve seen the last month or so and come to the conclusion that the players are not willing to stick together. From a pure “gamesmanship” point of view – there was nothing wrong with the owners testing the players’ mettle. Hopefully now they have their answer. Hopefully now the owners realize that it’s just as counter productive to do it now as it was in 1981.

If you weren’t around for the labor stoppage of 1981 – do yourself a favor and read up on the issues and what happened. Here’s what former MLBPA Executive Directory Marvin Miller said of the ’81 effort by players:

From the standpoint of labor it was the most principled strike I’ve ever been associated with,” recalled Miller, who took himself off the Players Association payroll during the strike to demonstrate his own solidarity. “Many of the players struck not for a better deal for themselves but for a better deal for their colleagues, and for the players who would be coming into baseball in the future…There were veterans on every team who remembered how it used to be and the role of union solidarity in changing things.

However small it may have been – and it was certainly small compared to ’81 – the experience of the players sticking together is one that should help if we have additional labor strife when the current CBA expires after the conclusion of the 2021 season. Being a part of a team and sacrificing for the good of the team is something that comes more naturally to players than it does to owners. Throughout all of baseball’s labor issues, there have always been more issues of owners remaining united than the players.

As a player rep, Conforto certainly gets it. From his actions, it’s very easy to project that Alonso gets it, too. And if something goes down where there’s a question of solidarity, I wouldn’t want to be on the side hoping that Conforto and Alonso couldn’t keep teamwork alive.

3 comments for “Pete Alonso and player solidarity in labor issues

  1. Name
    June 30, 2020 at 8:51 am

    While Alonso may get the message of the players, at this point in his career he would be unqualified to be the union player rep as he has not gone through much of the process of either arbitration or FA and he wouldn’t have much of a reference of some of the other union perks to talk about.

    I’d imagine the usual player rep is someone who has gone through arb at least once to maybe someone who has reached FA with limited career earnings as they still have a vested interest in their future. Someone like Cano who has already gotten paid and future secured would theoretically not care as much.

    Once Conforto gets paid i probably see him passing the buck to Nimmo or Lugo

  2. June 30, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    If Dominic Smith stays with the club (which I sincerely hope he does), I think he would be a terrific player rep. He’s faced the scrutiny of being a first round pick, he’s faced a medical (sleep apnea) issue, and he’s faced playing-time issues.

    • June 30, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Dom would be a solid choice.

      While I think it’s important for stars to be front and center, it’s also good to have players who have different experiences and as you point out, that describes Dom.

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