Tampa Bay Rays, MLB go faceless with player avatars amid player lockout

Rays

Tampa Bay Rays decline official comment, but send letter to fans on the lockout

A general view of Tropicana Field during Tampa Bay Rays baseball practice, Wednesday, July 8, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Major League Baseball lockout continues, where all team owners voted together to lock players out of contract bargaining. The vote came after three days of negotiation struck out on a path to compromise, as expected.

In the Dec. 1 vote, MLB managers effectively instituted a strike. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred wrote in a letter to baseball fans that the lockout was the best way to keep the 2022 season afloat. The lockout started at midnight on Dec. 2, when the current agreement came to an end.

“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” Manfred wrote in a statement.

He said the lockout was defensive. Manfred said that when negotiations started, the MLB Players Association wanted to change baseball in a way that would “threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive.”

The MLBPA described the lockout as a shutdown of the industry, and a choice by owners to “pressure Players into relinquishing rights and benefits, abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just Players, but the game and industry as a whole.” They said the tactics from the MLB owners aren’t a new strategy.

A lockout hasn’t happened in MLB since the 1994 to 1995 Major League Baseball strike. This year’s lockout marks the ninth work stoppage in baseball history.

The online rosters for baseball teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays, showed the most noticeable change amid the off-field strife hitting dugouts across the League. Normally, baseball fans would be able to find their favorite players’ stats, salaries and a photo of the star.

Now the player avatars are blank on MLB sites, a simple generic silhouette.

Manfred said in a Thursday morning news conference that the pictures of players had been removed from all MLB websites and replaced with the generic silhouettes as a legal obligation due to the lack of a collective bargaining agreement. It makes the players faceless during the lockout, a gesture that some players have turned into a push for solidarity as negotiations are paused and training is delayed.

Nick Anderson, a Tampa Bay Rays pitcher, is one of those players. He’s also the only Rays player to do so.

Halfway through the first day of the lockout, on Dec. 2, Anderson changed his Twitter profile to a blank face. The picture was paired with only three words: #NewProfilePic.

In response to the MLB lockout, the Rays have officially declined to comment to the press, instead sending a letter about the negotiations to fans.

Rays Fans,

First and foremost, we want to thank you for your continued support. We cannot begin to express how much it meant to have you back at Tropicana Field in 2021, filling the park with excitement and joy during an historic 100-win season.

Despite Major League Baseball’s best efforts to reach an agreement by offering a set of compromises aimed at addressing the Players Association’s stated concerns in a manner fair to both sides, the current CBA has expired. Therefore, MLB has been forced to commence a defensive lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01 a.m. on December 2.

While we are disappointed in the situation our game finds itself in, we can assure you that MLB negotiated in good faith, worked tirelessly and exhausted every reasonable avenue to try to avoid the first work stoppage in nearly 30 years. The purpose of taking this step is to accelerate the urgency needed to reach an agreement as quickly as possible with the goal of avoiding damage to the 2022 season.

MLB is working around the clock to reach an agreement by offering solutions aimed to address the Players Association’s stated concerns in a manner that is fair to both sides, improves competitive balance on the field so every team has a chance to compete, and improves and preserves the game of baseball for our fans in all markets.

Until an agreement is reached, we are not permitted to sign free agents, offer contract extensions, waive/option/release players, or conduct trades. We have been prepared for this undesired outcome. Once a new agreement is reached, the Tampa Bay Rays will be well-positioned to finish constructing an exciting roster ready to compete on the field.

We are confident that there is a path to an agreement, and both sides will work together to grow, protect, and strengthen the game we love.

We thank you for your patience and can’t wait to see you again at Tropicana Field in 2022. For more information, please visit www.MLB.com/Update.

Sincerely,

The Tampa Bay Rays

Letter from Tampa Bay Rays to fans

The MLBPA said the lockout by owners isn’t needed.

“This drastic and unnecessary measure will not affect the Players’ resolve to reach a fair contract. We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement that enhances competition, improves the product for our fans, and advances the rights and benefits of our membership,” Tony Clark, MLBPA Executive Director, said in a statement.

On the flip side of the negotiating table, Manfred said the Players Association already had a contract with no salary cap and no maximum length or dollar amount on player contracts. He said MLB only has guaranteed contracts that run 10 or more years and that pay in excess of $300 million.

“We have not proposed anything that would change these fundamentals. While we have heard repeatedly that free agency is ‘broken’ – in the month of November $1.7 billion was committed to free agents, smashing the prior record by nearly 4x,” Manfred said. “By the end of the offseason, Clubs will have committed more money to players than in any offseason in MLB history.”

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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