NEW YORK (AP) — New baseball union head Tony Clark says players won't agree to terminating contracts as part of discipline for drug violations.
Clark took over as executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association following Michael Weiner's death in November and expects talks on possible changes to the drug agreement to start before spring training. Commissioner Bud Selig proposed last March that drug penalties be toughened, but Weiner had said any alterations would be discussed for the 2014 season.
"I'd venture to guess that even though there are concerns on a number of levels, that we will never end up in a world where player contracts are voided as a result," Clark said Wednesday during an interview with The Associated Press at the union's office.
Clark also anticipated players will agree before the upcoming season to ban home plate collisions and to allow expanded instant replay, which also requires a deal between Major League Baseball and the umpires' union.
Since the start of the 2006 season, MLB's drug agreement has called for 50-game suspensions for a first positive test for performance-enhancing drugs, 100 games for a second and a lifetime ban for a third. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the entire 2014 season based on a provision allowing discipline for "just cause."
Some players have agreed with Selig's call for harsher penalties, and some spoke out after shortstop Jhonny Peralta finished a 50-game suspension, left Detroit as a free agent and agreed to a $53 million, four-year contract with St. Louis.
"It pays to cheat... Thanks, owners, for encouraging PED use," Arizona pitcher Brad Ziegler tweeted in November.
"Apparently getting suspended for PED's means you get a raise. What's stopping anyone from doing it? (hashtag)weneedtomakeachange," free agent pitcher David Aardsma tweeted.
"I would argue that that concern has been there before. I think it was articulated in a fashion that was perhaps different this time than last," Clark said. "We have a lot of players that are very passionate about the topic, and when you add in the social media component, players are confident and willing to offer that perspective. I think that's fantastic."
Though players are not paid their salaries while serving drug suspensions, clubs don't have the right to alter guarantee provisions for the remainder of contracts. In a statement last weekend, Rodriguez claimed his suspension was "MLB's first step toward abolishing guaranteed contracts in the 2016 bargaining round (and) instituting lifetime bans for single violations of drug policy."