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Could growing tension between MLB and MLB Players Association lead to a strike in 2016?

Patrick McDermott

Now that the decision in Alex Rodriguez's appeal hearing is public, tension between MLB and the MLB Players Association continues to grow out of perceived mismanagement of the entire lengthy ordeal. The union has threatened to sue over MLB COO Rob Manfred's appearance on 60 Minutes Sunday night in what was largely seen as a victory lap by MLB after coming out on top and getting their man. MLBPA had excused themselves from the Rodriguez matter, basically leaving the Yankees' third baseman and his lawyers on their own to pursue an injunction in federal court. The matter, in their eyes, was over once the 162-game suspension was announced.

statement from the Players Association regarding the 60 Minutes interview is pretty telling on where the actual players stand:

"Players have expressed anger over, among other things, MLB's inability to let the result of yesterday's decision speak for itself. As a result, the Players Association is considering all legal options available to remedy any breaches committed by MLB."

It isn't difficult to find numerous players willing to express the desire for stiff penalties for those who cheat the game of baseball, but it's obvious that MLB's tactics this time around have elevated the level of distrust between the union and MLB itself. Players want penalties for those who break the rules, but they don't want MLB to have free reign to disregard confidentiality agreements and take to national television to publicly embarrass some of their own, even if they adamantly disagree with what their fellow players have done.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after the 2016 season, and MLB and the Players Association will no doubt be looking to address the steroids problem in the next CBA. Tougher penalties for those who test positive are likely a given, and tin foil theories about the end of guaranteed contracts and lifetime bans on steroid users have also been thrown around as possibilities. If the two sides remain as far apart as they are now, or those tensions continue to grow, could baseball be looking at another strike?

Labor peace has been one of the great things for Bud Selig to hang his hat on, but that could all end in short order if the two sides continue to alienate one another. The players have pretty solidly been on the side of MLB when it comes to steroids, but it's unlikely that they will tolerate breaches of confidentiality agreements, or MLB's Chief Operating Officer appearing in primetime to throw any one of them under the bus, even if it is a player who has broken the rules the union would like nothing more than to uphold.

It's possible that the Rodriguez situation will be nothing but a drop in the bucket by the time a new CBA needs to be worked on, but what will the status of steroid use in baseball be then? Anthony Bosch took to 60 Minutes last night to basically tell the world how easy it is to cheat the system and go undetected. For players who need an extra boost to make it, it's hard to deny that they might easily buy what Bosch was selling in the proverbial sense. Why wouldn't they now seek out their own anti-aging clinic to try and get some of the undetectable steroids that allowed Rodriguez, Jesus Montero, Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, and likely many others, to skate by without a positive test?

Maybe the answer is integrity and we'd all like to believe that the guys who suit up for our favorite team have some shred of that in their bodies. Maybe Tony Bosch was only blowing smoke last night when he painted a picture of baseball where more players are on something illegal than those who are not, but what if he wasn't? MLB and the Players Association are going to have to find a way to work together to remove steroids from the game, or at the very least reduce their prevalence, that doesn't push the other away. Going on 60 Minutes to tell the world how proud they were that they got their man might have been the first step in alienating the other side just a little bit too much.