WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – On the day Houston outfielder Josh Reddick said he and other players have received death threats in the wake of the team's sign-stealing scandal, union head Tony Clark said safety had become an issue for some of his members.
“There are undoubtedly concerns out there based on some of the commentary that .. there's a heightened sense of concern to make sure that themselves and their families are protected," Clark said Friday after speaking with the Astros. “There's no doubt making sure that our players and their families are able to go to and from the ballpark and perform safely ... is a huge piece of the puzzle."
Clark spoke before Reddick told reporters that he received death threats on social media and that people have commented on pictures of his infant twins, saying they hope they get cancer. He said teammates have also received threatening messages and he thinks it will be “pretty scary" for his wife and children to join him on the road this season since club hotels become known.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred concluded last month that the Astros violated rules by using a television camera to steal catchers' signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title and again in the 2018 season. While manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow were suspended for one season and then fired by the team, players were not disciplined.
Some players on other teams have said and implied that they would intentionally throw at the Astros this season. Atlanta's Nick Markakis said Tuesday that “every single guy over there needs a beating."
Clark said the union has had conversations with MLB about ensuring the safety of the players and their families and that comments are “hard to ignore." Still, he said the union's job was to defend its members.
“I will never apologize for protecting player rights," he said.
Clark, who visits each team during spring training, said sign stealing was just a part of changes brought about by technology in recent years.
“It's manifesting itself in how player service time is being manipulated, it's manifesting itself in a way that we're seeing abuses of the injured list, it's manifesting itself in ways that's directly affecting the type of game that's being played on the field," he said. “So I know a lot of the headline has said sign-stealing, but the truth is this conversation about technology is much larger than that."
Clark thinks allowing technology to impact every facet of the game has become “very problematic."
“We developed this culture of it's OK to do all of these things to affect the game in the fashion that they are, because we're being hyper efficient and we're really smart," he said. “That culture has been allowed to fester and it's affecting our game."
There are ongoing talks between the union and MLB about further restricting the availability of video during games.
“We've had discussions about moving the replay room so it's not quite as accessible," Clark said.