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PHOENIX — A day after the Yankees traded harsh words with their setup man Dellin Betances over their victory in salary arbitration, the top official of the players’ union expressed disappointment with the public fallout.
Tony Clark, the executive director of the union, the Major League Baseball Players Association, said the public rancor was “unprecedented and is unprofessional and should not have happened in the fashion that it did.” He said that the union supported Betances, who was awarded $3 million after having sought $5 million, and added that “a situation that arose like yesterday should never have happened.”
After the Yankees’ victory, their president, Randy Levine, called Betances a “victim” whose agent, Jim Murray, was making a “half-baked attempt” to reset the market for nonclosers. Though Betances has worked high-leverage innings late in games, he has little experience as a closer.
“It’s like me saying, ‘I’m not the president of the Yankees; I’m an astronaut,’” Levine said. “No, I’m not an astronaut, and Dellin Betances is not a closer.”
Betances would seem to be severely underpaid, in light of his production relative to other highly paid players on the Yankees. But because Betances has not reached free agency, his only leverage to get the salary he wanted was through arbitration.
Clark said the union had no problem with that process, but he lamented that more teams were taking players to trial, where players’ feelings can be hurt by hearing teams argue against them.
“We have always believed and continue to believe that the system is set up for settlement, because no one knows when you step into the arbitration room what the decision is going to be,” Clark said. “In this brave new world of file and trial, we simply find more teams finding their way into the arbitration room, and that was never the goal or backdrop of the process.”
Clark, speaking in a news conference before a union meeting on Sunday, addressed other issues facing his membership, including the suggestions by Major League Baseball to speed up the pace of games. Clark said that while players were “willing to have a conversation” about making intentional walks automatic, he had a succinct answer about the idea to start extra innings with a runner on second base.
“No,” Clark said, to laughter in the conference room. “No.”
He added that the idea might have merit in the minors, to prevent injury and overuse of pitchers in games that drag deep into extra innings.
“But at the major league level,” he said, “fighting until that last run scores, that has always been part of the conversation.”