The MLB Players Association has ended their relationship with long-time executive Rick Shapiro, per ESPN’s Buster Olney (via Twitter). Shapiro had seen his role and influence with the Players Union increasingly diminished in recent months.
Parting ways with one of their lawyers feels like a significant move, especially as we get closer to defining the real meat of the 2021 labor negotiations. Of Shapiro’s particular influence, Joel Sherman of the New York Post (via Twitter) writes:
“Shapiro was a fierce union advocate, but also someone MLB viewed as knowing the history of CBA negotiations and capable of getting to a deal, so his exit is another sign of war drums by the union with the end of the CBA coming following 2021. Haven spoken to multiple agents tonight who feel this is a big loss for union, in part because Shapiro also was a key figure in the arbitration process and this loss of his institutional knowledge and advocacy will not be easily replaced. Since the death of Mike Weiner and naming of Tony Clark to lead the union, Rick’s influence had internally waned. Still agents were shocked that the end came this morning rather than waiting until the next CBA was completed. The union did not want to comment on this matter.”
Given the shifting tenor of contract negotiators in general between players and owners, departing a well-regarded litigator is a notable move for the union. Without comment or knowledge of corresponding moves, however, it’s presumptuous to assume this move speaks to a willingness (or even eagerness) on the players’ part to “lean in” to the coming conflict (as it seems on the surface).
That said, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that there are many in the industry who feel this is a sign of the growing momentum of a potential strike. Regardless, Shapiro’s exit can be added to the catalog of happenings to keep near-at-hand as we sift through narratives in advance of the 2021 collecting bargaining negotiation.