FORT MYERS, FLA. – A lot of questions were answered for the Twins on Tuesday, and a lot of advice was passed along. The players learned about changes to qualifying offers in free agency and the new clubhouse policy for compensating assistants. Byron Buxton even got some ideas about breaking in new gloves.
That last one came courtesy of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, who spent an extended amount of time at Buxton’s locker, along with Torii Hunter, before he and several colleagues from the MLB Players Association briefed the Twins on the new collective bargaining agreement.
“He’s a good young man [with] an abundance of ability,” Winfield said of Buxton, whom he met during last year’s training camp. “He’s got ‘it.’ I love that speed, his defense. I gave him some ideas on how to break in his gloves, too, so he can be a Gold Glove-caliber player.”
Winfield, an adviser to MLB Players Association President Tony Clark, said he offers advice to young players, “little things where people say, ‘I didn’t know that,’ ” in every camp he visits. But he’s taken a particular interest in Buxton, who is trying to establish himself in the major leagues. “You just share, hopefully, what it takes. Everyone looks for the key to unlock their talent, so they can play consistently. It takes repetition, it takes time, but I said I know that he’s going to be there, and I’ve got my eye on him.”
Twins players had their eye on changes they will experience in the business of the game, such as the per-diem allowance on road trips (dropping from $105 to $30), and new standards for food in the clubhouse. With labor stoppage averted by the new five-year collective bargaining agreement agreed to in December, they heard about how their strike fund will be refunded to them, and about the raise in the MLB minimum salary to $535,000 this year.
“For a team like this, with so many young players, there are so many issues that players have questions about,” said catcher Chris Gimenez, who served as Cleveland’s player representative last season. “At the same time, it’s good for them to hear about how the [union] works for them. We benefit from the sacrifices made by players who came before us, and our guys recognize that. Everybody is glad there was no work stoppage last year, but it’s important to understand what was at stake.”
There are things still at stake, too. Clark reiterated that the CBA has been agreed to, but the language hasn’t been completely put to paper yet. And the negotiation process is why Clark said that while Commissioner Rob Manfred has floated a number of ideas to address pace-of-play issues — time clocks, raising the strike zone — it’s unlikely any would be implemented for this season.
“This year was a little different because you lose a month or two as a result of the negotiated agreement,” Clark said. “A lot of the on-field [rules] conversations happen in November or even December. They didn’t happen this year ’til toward the end of January. so you run real short on time to have fundamental changes.”
Besides, Clark said, he thinks MLB should be cautious about making large changes.
“Do I believe there are wholesale chances necessary? No. I love our game and I’m a romantic,” he said. “I understand the dead-time [argument]. I understand the sensitivities around today’s [short-attention-span] culture. I also understand and appreciate that our game is chess and [not] checkers. ... Changes are always worth discussing, but [you need caution] so that you don’t change the game into something we don’t recognize.”