MLB Owners Reportedly Use Fake Championship Belt to Celebrate Arbitration Wins

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMarch 29, 2019

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks to reporters before an opening day baseball game between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday, March 28, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

As the discussion about player salaries and free agency continues across Major League Baseball, owners have a unique way of celebrating when they save money.

Per The Athletic's Marc Carig, MLB awards a championship belt to the owner whose team achieves "the goals set by the industry" during the arbitration process.

"In other words: the team that did the most to keep salaries down in arbitration," Carig wrote.

MLB Players Association President Tony Clark issued a statement Friday regarding the report. "That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our Players, the game and the arbitration process itself."

Players typically reach arbitration between their third and sixth full seasons in MLB. They are allowed to ask for a certain amount of money, to be paid out for one year, and the team will typically counter with a lower offer.

If the two sides don't come to an agreement, the case will go to trial where an independent party will determine the winner based on performance and statistical analysis.

Nine players went to arbitration this offseason, and six won their cases. Ryan Tepera of the Toronto Blue Jays, Kyle Barraclough of the Washington Nationals and Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers were the three players who lost their arguments and were paid what their respective teams offered.

MLB issued a statement to Carig, confirming the championship belt exists and is used as "an informal recognition of those clubs' salary arbitration departments that did the best."

The MLBPA also responded to the report and acknowledged its respect for the arbitration process.

"The Association has worked with thousands of players through the salary arbitration process," Rick Shapiro, MLBPA senior adviser to the executive director, said. "All I will tell you is that players respect the process and take the process very seriouslyand rightfully so."

Front-office spending was the biggest topic across MLB during the offseason. Former AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel and All-Star reliever Craig Kimbrel remain unsigned after the start of the regular season Thursday.

The average player salary on Opening Day 2019 was $4.36 million, marking the second straight year it has dropped, per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press.

While player salaries are falling, Forbes' Murray Brown reported in January that MLB revenue surpassed $10 billion for the first time in 2018.