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MLBPA extends Tony Clark as chief, votes Nationals’ Scherzer to top player committee

Tony Clark's term as executive director of the Major League Players Association has been extended through 2022. (Morry Gash/Associated Press, File)

The Major League Baseball Players Association voted Wednesday to extend Tony Clark’s tenure as its executive director through 2022, ensuring that the first former player chosen to lead the union will guide it through what is expected to be a contentious negotiation for a new a labor agreement after the 2021 season.

The vote by the union’s executive board to extend the Clark was unanimous, according to a statement released Wednesday. Clark was in meetings all day Wednesday, as the union wrapped up its executive board session in Irving, Tex., and was unavailable to comment, according to a union spokesman.

Also Wednesday, the union announced Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer was voted, along with pitcher James Paxton of the New York Yankees, to its executive subcommittee, an eight-player board that works closely with Clark on issues and policy.

Clark, 46, took over as union chief in December 2013 following the death of Michael Weiner, and has guided the players through periods of both peace — such as the years leading up to the 2017 labor agreement — and strife.

Since last winter, baseball’s labor relations have been as strained as at any other point this century, chiefly due to the slow-moving free agent market of the 2017-18 offseason, which had many on the players’ side hurling veiled — or not-so-veiled — accusations of collusion on the part of the owners.

Agent Brodie Van Wagenen, now the general manager of the New York Mets, suggested the possibility of a strike during the 2018 spring training, and Clark himself decried the “race to the bottom” by teams opting for the strategy of “tanking.” The union even took the unprecedented step of opening a spring training camp in Florida for unsigned veterans.

Some players during that period also expressed dissatisfaction with Clark — who, unlike predecessors Marvin Miller, Donald Fehr and Weiner, is not an attorney — and in August the union hired veteran labor attorney Bruce Meyer, most recently with the NHL Players’ Association, to serve as its chief negotiator in future bargaining sessions.

The owners voted Nov. 15 to extend Rob Manfred’s tenure as commissioner through 2024. The current labor deal expires Dec. 1, 2021, and many industry observers expect the next round of negotiations to be as contentious as any in recent memory, with some already predicting a work stoppage.