Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) executive director Tony Clark has stated fans should question the value of buying tickets for certain teams, amid escalating tensions with the league itself.

Clark (pictured) made the move in response to comments from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred, who suggested the current situation of a host of star players being without contracts was down to them being unrealistic in their pay demands.

MLB is currently well into its spring training season and the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel all remain free agents. The situation has led to a spat between the league and the union, which believes MLB has been slow to introduce changes designed to make the game more appealing.

Average attendances at MLB ballparks have fallen for three consecutive seasons, and last year dropped below 30,000 for the first time since 2003. “Players’ eyes don’t deceive them, nor do fans’,” Clark said in a statement yesterday (Monday).

“As players report to spring training and see respected veterans and valued teammates on the sidelines, they are rightfully frustrated by a two-year attack on free agency. Players commit to compete every pitch of every at-bat, and every inning of every game. Yet we’re operating in an environment in which an increasing number of clubs appear to be making little effort to improve their rosters, compete for a championship or justify the price of a ticket.”

The union is said to be concerned that too many teams are opting to undergo rebuilding phases by cutting costs. “This narrative that our teams aren’t trying is just not supported by the facts,” Manfred said on Sunday, according to the Associated Press news agency.

“Our teams are trying. Every single one of them wants to win. It may look a little different to outsiders because the game has changed, the way that people think about the game, the way that people think about putting a winning team together has changed, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying.”

Nevertheless, the union is dissatisfied with the current situation and Clark added: “Players have made a sincere attempt to engage with clubs on their proposals to improve pace of play and enhance the game’s appeal to fans.

“At the same time, we have presented wide-ranging ideas that value substance over seconds and ensure the best players are on the field every day. We believe these substantive changes are imperative now – not in 2022 or 2025, but in 2019.”

Image: MLB