Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

What Is The MLBPA Trying To Hide From Me?

Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP
Photo Credit: Elaine Thompson/AP

It’s been widely reported that Adrián González waived his no-trade clause before he was dealt to the Braves last weekend only because he was assured that he would be released and able to pursue free agency instantly.

It wasn’t quite true that he would be “immediately” DFA’d, though. Due to a somewhat curious rule, a team cannot technically place a player on any sort of waivers on the weekend during the offseason—after 2:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, to be specific. During the season, weekends and holidays are fair game, but during the offseason you’ve got to act by 2:00 p.m. on Friday or you’re waiting until Monday morning. (In this case, the Braves waited until Monday afternoon.)


This rule seems perfectly logical on the grounds of endorsing a little work-life balance—must the folks in the Commissioner’s Office really be left waiting around to handle any potential activity at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday night?—but it seems very out-of-place in an industry that doesn’t really do anything to promote work-life balance, simply by virtue of the demands created by the sport’s schedule itself, to say nothing of an offseason culture of midnight deal-making. This constraint is detailed in the Official Professional Baseball Rules Book (which concerns the guidelines for club transactions and is not to be confused with the Official Baseball Rules, the separate document concerning on-field play), and so far as I can tell, it’s been on the books for quite a while. But how did it get there, and why?

If anyone would have an answer, it seemed like MLB’s official historian, John Thorn, would be a good bet. So I reached out to him, and he had some ideas, though not an official answer:

Never gave this much of a thought, but waiver claims following a designation for assignment—which must precede a formal release and must be allowed 48 hours during the week—do take a weekend hiatus, perhaps to allow executives not to scramble on a day when they may be out of the office or traveling...

Or, if the rule goes back to before Sunday blue laws were finally eliminated in 1933, with the city of Philadelphia being the last holdout, maybe there was a moralist/religious consideration, too.

In sum, I don’t know and can only speculate.

Suddenly, I was ravenous for an explanation. Here was a rule—an admittedly inconsequential one!—that had apparently been around so long and so overlooked that the league’s official historian had no information about its exact provenance. How was I supposed to just ignore this and go on with life? All of baseball’s rules and regulations, no matter how arcane or seemingly inscrutable they might be, were put in place for specific reasons and have their own origin stories. And so, naturally, I got thinking about the other strange rules hidden in the nooks of baseball’s governing documents.


I turned with fresh appreciation to another one of baseball’s key documents. Not the Official Baseball Rules or Official Professional Baseball Rules Book, but instead the most recent edition of the collective bargaining agreement, which was approved last winter. The biggest pieces of the CBA have been publicly reported on and discussed quite a bit by now. But what of the tiniest ones?

Did you know, for example, that this CBA contains a new provision stating that clubhouse carpets “must be cleaned at least bi-weekly”? Who brought that to the negotiating table? What was the last straw that made players decide that clean carpets were something that needed to be collectively bargained for after the 2016 season? Who was like, “I’ve had it up to HERE with these dirty carpets!!!” and decided that said dirty carpets must be cleaned not just monthly, but bi-weekly? And does bi-weekly, in this scenario, mean twice a week or every two weeks? Does “cleaning” mean just vacuuming or really cleaning?


So on Monday, I sent the following email to Greg Bouris, director of communications for the Major League Baseball Players Association:

Hi Greg,

I’m a reporter with the website Deadspin. As a light-hearted end-of-year post, I’m interested in highlighting some interesting tidbits established in the most recent CBA, and perhaps how they came about in negotiations and how they went in their first season, if there’s any information on that. I realize this is all a bit specific, but I figured I’d check with MLBPA just in case.

—On the stipulation that “Carpets in both the home clubhouse and visiting clubhouse must be cleaned at least bi-weekly”: does this mean vacuumed, or cleaned in the sense of deep carpet cleaning? And is biweekly once every two weeks or twice a week?

—Regarding this provision: “The fact that a Player leaves the bullpen during an on-field incident will be considered an aggravating factor in determining the appropriate level of discipline for that Player, should he otherwise act in a manner that warrants discipline (e.g., instigating or committing an act of violence), but will not constitute independent grounds for discipline and cannot elevate an appropriate level of discipline from a fine to a suspension.” Is there any insight on how that might be practically implemented; i.e., how much it might matter that a player leaves the bullpen?

—On the stipulation that clubs must provide three meals on game days with 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. starts and four meals on game days with 4 p.m. starts: is there a minimum classification for what constitutes a “meal”?

—This isn’t a new one, but the agreement that “every effort will be made to replace, in a timely fashion, pants torn during the game”: is there any standard for timeliness here?

Thank you so much!


Emma Baccellieri

(I’ve been wondering about the ripped pants for quite some time now.)

When I did not get a response from Greg by Tuesday afternoon, I called his office to see if he’d be interested in talking. After confirming my name and describing the subject matter of my story, the woman on the other end of the line told me that Greg actually wasn’t in the office and I’d have to leave a voicemail. I left a voicemail. When I did not get a response by Wednesday afternoon, I sent a follow-up email. When I did not get a response by Thursday afternoon, I called his office again. This time, the person who picked up the phone told me that Greg was around and I’d be transferred to his line shortly. I was transferred, and I said, “Hello, Greg, my name is—” and the man to whom I’d been transferred said that he wasn’t actually Greg. I asked if I could speak to Greg. The man said that a lot of people were out of the office today; would I like to leave a voicemail for Greg instead? I asked if I could describe what I was working on to see if someone else might be available to help. When I said, “For example, one thing I noted was this provision regarding carpet cleaning,” I noticed that there was on-hold music playing. I paused. I asked if anyone was there. The line went dead.


Exactly four minutes later, I received this email:

Hi Emma.

Thanks for your patience, as I didn’t intend to keep you dangling. I appreciate you reaching out, but we’ll politely decline this offer to participate in your story. Again, sorry for the delay, and I hope you have an enjoyable holiday!


I spent more time trying to find answers here than Adrián González spent as a member of the Atlanta Braves. But we both have the same thing to show for these experiences: absolutely nothing.

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