MINNEAPOLIS -- Both Commissioner Bud Selig and Tony Clark, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, voiced the hope that the use of smokeless tobacco among professional baseball players disappears.
The two, however, appear to have some differences on the means by which this end would be achieved. In remarks made during appearances before the Baseball Writers' Association of America on Tuesday, Selig appeared to favor a collective bargaining approach, while Clark favored further education of players on the dangers of smokeless tobacco.
The issue has been brought to the fore by the death of Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn from salivary gland cancer.
"We believe the numbers suggest that usage [of smokeless tobacco] has declined significantly," Clark said. "It's declined in the Minor Leagues and the Major Leagues. Our hope is that we can continue to educate guys on the damage that dipping can do and they will continue to decide not to dip and chew.
"We give the players the opportunity to make the decision they're going to make against the backdrop of it being legal. At the end of the day, we don't condone it and they know we don't condone it."
"It will be a subject they'll discuss during the next collective bargaining," Selig said. "I understand that individuals have a right to make their own decisions. I hope we're successful, because the Tony Gwynn story was a heartbreaking, awful story.
"I feel very strongly about this, just as I did 10, 15 years ago. The one thing I personally assume as Commissioner is that we're responsible for the health of our players. I believe that. Some may think that's naïve, but I don't think so."
Baseball has banned smokeless tobacco in the Minor Leagues, where there is no union with which it must bargain. Both sides agree on the damage that smokeless tobacco can do, but the debate at this point is between negotiating a Major League ban on smokeless tobacco as part of the next collective bargaining agreement, or keeping it a matter of individual choice.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less