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FUEL TO THE FIRE

Discussion about the game's labor strife has heated up a slow hot stove season
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MUCH OF the conversation in baseball has focused on what the players have lost the last few years in free agency. But there's also something that they've gained: the ability to openly discuss the situation on social media. Over the past month, a slew of players have discussed the state of free agency on Twitter and Instagram. "We are less than a month from the start of spring and once again some of our game's bigger stars remain unsigned. Such a shame," Giants third baseman Evan Longoria posted on Instagram on Jan. 18, with a photo collage of free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. "As players we need to stand strong for what we believe we are worth and continue to fight for the rights we have fought for time and time again." (Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge responded with "OK" hand-sign emojis; Padres first baseman Eric Hosmer chimed in with "Preach Longo!"; Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis pressed "like.") When a commenter tried to argue that his expensive tickets paid for players' salaries, in stepped free-agent Logan Morrison: "Since teams have stopped paying as much for free agents, have your ticket prices gone down? But your tax dollars are paying for that gorgeous stadium. You should want the best players on the field at all times."

In the context of previous conversations about labor, this is something different—and maybe even a little bit radical. These public discussions have traditionally been driven by the league and the team owners. "It's a really fundamental change in labor relations in professional sports," says Doug Allen, a Penn State professor who previously served as assistant executive director of the NFL Players' Association. "It's just a much more powerful tool for the unions and their members today."

Says Nationals closer Sean Dootlittle, "I think it's really important for us to be able to use this time that we have leading up to the CBA to continue to voice some of the concerns that we have about the direction that the game's going."

Of course, any potential work stoppage in baseball would still be years away; MLB's collective bargaining agreement does not expire until 2021. A labor battle can't be fully fought in the comment section. But a modern battle for public opinion can—and this one already is.

Dallas Keuchel

@kidkeuchy

That doesn't mean anything anymore ... apparently [Winking Face]

Jim @OGKidCtarmy Yankees now need to sign @kidkeuchy he has a 3.66 career ERA, won a World Series, and won a Cy Young ...