MLBPA’s Clark appreciates Bautista, talks Martin, analytics, WBC

Now pain-free, Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin explains why his minor offseason knee surgery was so important to relieve the necessary pain that he felt throughout last season.

DUNEDIN, Fla. – Tony Clark expressed disappointment over the insurance complications that will prevent Russell Martin from playing in the upcoming World Baseball Classic Friday. After a particularly long two hour, 20-minute meeting with Toronto Blue Jays players, the MLBPA’s executive director discussed a wide range of topics with the media, including Martin’s status.

“Our support for a player is high, while understanding too that there are a number of moving pieces,” Clark said. “It’s disappointing that he’s not going to have the opportunity to play. I know he’s disappointed, I know he’s agitated, I know he’s angry about it and I don’t blame him at all for that agitation.”

Martin had been looking forward to playing shortstop for the national team, but insurance complications related to a minor off-season knee operation prevented his participation. Though Martin won’t play, he’ll join Team Canada for the first round of the WBC in Miami March 9-12 to provide insight and support from the dugout.

“I’m glad to see he’s as healthy as he is, and I’m glad that he’s going to be involved in the capacity that he is,” Clark said. “We appreciate his willingness to continue being involved despite his not being able to play.”

Here are more highlights from Clark’s session with the Toronto media, including his thoughts on Jose Bautista, the developing market for power hitters and the role of analytics in front offices:

On Jose Bautista

“J.B. is an asset to our game on so many different levels. I think everyone can appreciate what he does on the field, but there are a lot of things that he does that very few people know about or hear about or appreciate, whether that’s breathing into and supporting the next generation of guys that comes behind him; whether on this team, or other teams, or any of the work that he does in the communities that doesn’t end up on the front page somewhere.

“Not only that, but you talk about a guy who’s a role model for engagement in his own individual career and taking control of the opportunities that may be presented while also engaging and offering insight into things that may not just benefit him, but benefit the whole.

“Whether it’s in this (meeting) room or outside this room, having conversations with J.B. and the value that he brings to these conversations is off the charts.”

On a slow market for veteran power hitters

“It was an interesting market to say the least. What we do and what we will do at the end of every off-season is sit down with the representatives for any one particular player or group of players on the market and try to appreciate what conversations were had. What was said versus what wasn’t, and try to understand a little bit better as to why things played out the way they did both from a positive and from a not-so-positive side. Those conversations have already started.”

On whether the slow market for veteran players is alarming

“What I do think is worthy of more conversation is the value — or, perhaps, the lack thereof, depending on how you look at it — with respect to veterans. I think anybody who’s been around the game for a while has an appreciation for what a veteran presence – both on the field and off the field and in the clubhouse – has for a team that’s looking to compete and win.

“While there’s an acknowledgement that certain groups of players have value, the truth is, you don’t get through a 162-game season, and you don’t get through it in multiple years, without having some value. Appreciating what that value looks like is something that we’re interested in trying to determine.

“Is it a concern? Sure, it’s a concern. Is it something that we’re keeping an eye on? Yes. Each individual market is a little bit different, but I’m hopeful that our industry — and I believe a number of teams do, I don’t know that every team does anymore — values the experience both on and off the field that a veteran can bring.”

On whether front offices assess players more uniformly than ever

“That’s the way it seems to be playing out, but again, a lot of the sentiment that may be offered to any one individual (player) representative will offer some glimpse into some of that and that’s what we’re looking into, too.”

On the role of analytics in today’s game

“It’s always an interesting conversation to try to take a formula or an analytic or a metric to determine an individual’s value and I understand why clubs are doing that. I also believe — call me an old-school guy, call me a romantic, call me whatever you want to call me — but I also believe there are things you can’t quantify.

“I’m hopeful that there’s enough of the conversation happening that values those things that may not show up on a stat sheet.

“While I understand that analytics are part of the game now and aren’t going anywhere, I also know that our game is pretty special in the regard of things being demonstrated over the course of a 162-game season that are a little difficult to put a stat on.”

On whether baseball has too many walks, strikeouts and home runs

“It’s possible this pendulum has swung too far one way and may work its way back even without anything happening, but I appreciate all of it. I appreciate the talent that the guys bring to the table and the fashion that they do. I appreciate the power. I appreciate the discipline the guys have at the plate. I appreciate the guys on the bump as well, because the guys on the bump are even different than in my last year, which was 2009.”

On the players’ decision to agree to the intentional walk rule change

“You have conversations about a particular rule where you have guys on one end and you have guys on the other and you have some that are in the middle. The vast majority of those we spoke to were in the middle and that’s why we were willing to agree to what we agreed to.”

On the best possible time for the WBC

“Where we have it right now — and I don’t want to put perfect in the conversation — but it may be as perfect as we can get now. It’s difficult. It’s a challenge in the course of the year to try to block out time both in the middle or at the end.”

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