Tony Clark

Anthony Christopher Clark (born June 15, 1972) is an American professional baseball player and executive. He played in Major League Baseball as a first baseman from 1995 to 2009 and is the sixth executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA).

Tony Clark
Clark with the San Diego Padres in 2008
First baseman
Born: (1972-06-15) June 15, 1972
Newton, Kansas, U.S.
Batted: Switch
Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 3, 1995, for the Detroit Tigers
Last MLB appearance
July 12, 2009, for the Arizona Diamondbacks
MLB statistics
Batting average.262
Home runs251
Runs batted in824
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Clark had his best years with the Detroit Tigers (1995–2001), but also played with five other teams during a 15-year career that ended in 2009. He was a switch hitter, and threw right-handed. He was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1996, and was an All Star in 2001.

Clark was a union representative while he was a player, and after retiring he joined the staff of the MLBPA in 2010.[1] He served as deputy executive director and acting executive director of the union before he was appointed executive director in December 2013, upon the death of Michael Weiner.[1] Clark is the first former player to be executive director of the MLBPA.[1]

Amateur career

Clark prepped at Valhalla High School in El Cajon, California, but after going out to dinner with principal Ed Giles and others,[2] Clark transferred to nearby Christian High School.[3] He averaged 43.7 points per game in basketball in his senior season.[4]

Clark played college basketball at the University of Arizona and San Diego State University, where he was the San Diego State Aztecs' top scorer with 11.5 points per game in 1991–92.[5] Clark left college (and ended his basketball career) without finishing his business administration degree in order to focus on baseball.[6]

Professional baseball career

In a 15-year career, Clark hit .262 with 251 home runs and 824 run batted in (RBIs) in 1,559 games played.

Detroit Tigers

The Detroit Tigers selected Clark out of high school with the second overall pick in the 1990 MLB draft.[7] He played in Minor League Baseball while attending college and playing college basketball.[8]

He was third in Rookie of the Year voting in 1996 when he hit .250 with 27 home runs.

His most productive seasons were 1997, with 32 HRs and 117 RBIs (10 errors at first base), 1998, with 34 HRs and 103 RBIs (13 errors at first), and 1999, with 31 HRs and 99 RBIs (10 errors at first).

Clark was selected an All-Star in 2001.

Boston Red Sox and New York Mets

With Clark eligible for salary arbitration and expected to earn $7 million for the 2002 season, the Tigers placed Clark on waivers, and he was claimed by the Boston Red Sox.[9] In 2002, Clark hit only .207 with 29 RBIs and three HRs for Boston in 90 games, with a career-low .291 slugging percentage. A free agent after the 2002 season, Clark signed a one-year contract with the New York Mets for the 2003 season.[10] In 2003, he batted .232 for the Mets.

New York Yankees

Signed as a bench player, Clark filled in for the New York Yankees in 2004 after Jason Giambi was forced out of the lineup because of an injury, though he was replaced as the main first baseman by John Olerud late in the season. During an August 28 game, Clark hit a career-high three home runs in an 18–6 rout of the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Clark with the Diamondbacks in 2007

Clark signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks after the 2004 season. In a limited role (349 at bats) in the 2005 season, he hit .307 with 30 home runs, and 87 RBIs.[11]

In 2006, Clark was injured for most of the season. Although he tried to play through a shoulder injury that required significant surgery to repair, he batted a career-low .197, with a career-low .279 on-base percentage, in 132 at-bats. He struggled especially against right-handers, batting .125 against them. In 2007, Clark shared first base with Conor Jackson. He played in 113 games and batted .249.

San Diego Padres

After the season, his contract was up and on February 10, 2008, Clark agreed to a one-year contract worth $900,000 with the San Diego Padres.[12] On July 17, 2008, he was traded back to the Diamondbacks for minor league pitcher Evan Scribner. In order to complete the trade, Clark waived a clause under his contract with the Padres pursuant to which he was to receive $500,000 from the Padres if traded.[13]

In 2008, between the two teams, Clark batted .225 with a .318 slugging percentage. Clark struck out more than 13 of the time, with 55 strikeouts in 151 at-bats. He struggled especially against right-handers, batting .198 against them.

Return to Arizona

Clark filed for free agency after the 2008 season. On January 2, 2009, he signed a one-year deal worth $800,000 to remain with the Diamondbacks.[14]

Clark had a startling good performance on Opening Day 2009, hitting 2 home runs to lead the D-Backs to a victory over the Colorado Rockies; fellow switch-hitting teammate Felipe López also homered from both sides of the plate in the same game, making them the first teammates to do so on an Opening Day.[15]

Clark slumped badly thereafter, however, as in his next 18 at-bats he only managed to eke out a single. As of May 6 he was batting .179, and had struck out in more than half his at bats.[16] That day Clark was placed on the 15-day disabled list for a lingering wrist ligament injury, and Josh Whitesell, who was hitting .356 for the Reno Aces with a .477 on-base percentage, was called up to the Diamondbacks to take his place.[17][18][19] Clark suffered the injury during spring training, and re-aggravated it in late April, leaving him unable to swing comfortably from the left side. It was anticipated that the injury could require more than 15 days to heal.[20]

On June 19 Clark came off the disabled list and returned to Arizona (after a rehab assignment at Reno in which he batted .160, and during which he turned 37), and Whitesell was optioned back to Reno (after batting .300 with a .447 on-base percentage in his second stint with the team).[21][22] In his first game back with the team, Clark went 0–3 with 2 strikeouts to bring his batting average down to .161, with strikeouts in 55% of his at bats for the season.

Clark struggled on defense as well, as on June 21 in his second game back he dropped a throw to him at first base with two outs in the ninth, allowing the winning run to score for Seattle.[23] The play left players and managers on both sides stunned and speechless.[23] "It's a miserable ending to a rough road trip", manager A. J. Hinch said.[24] His resulting .973 fielding percentage was last among major league first basemen who had played 60 or more innings.[25]

On July 12, 2009, the Diamondbacks released Clark, who was hitting .182 with four home runs and 11 RBIs. They replaced him with Whitesell. Clark said he would continue to work out the next few weeks in the event an opportunity might arise with another team, and that if he didn't land with another team he'd consider broadcasting and coaching, perhaps with the Diamondbacks. Diamondbacks General Manager Josh Byrnes expressed an interest in keeping him with the organization, and Clark said he "would welcome the opportunity."[26]

Post-Season

Clark played in four post-season series through 2008, two each for the Yankees and the Diamondbacks. In aggregate, he batted .135, with a .158 on-base percentage and a .189 slugging percentage, and drove in one run in 37 at-bats.[27]

MLB Players Association

Clark (left), Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend (center), and Rob Manfred (right) before the Fort Bragg Game in 2016

Throughout his playing career, Clark was involved in the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) on various levels. He attended an executive board meeting for the first time in 1999 and was a team player representative and association representative for several seasons following. He was an active participant in the union's collective bargaining in 2002 and 2006 and in negotiations regarding Major League Baseball's drug policy. In March 2010, Clark was hired to be the MLBPA's Director of Player Relations.[28]

It was reported in April 2013 that Clark was close to earning a degree in history and planned to potentially pursue a Juris Doctor degree.[6] Following the death of Michael Weiner, Clark was unanimously voted executive director of Major League Baseball Players Association in December 2013. He became the first former major league player to hold the position.[1]

Clark led the MLBPA negotiations during the 2021-22 MLB lockout.[29]

During the 2022 season, Clark and the MLBPA worked to unionize minor league baseball players.[30][31] In September 2022, the MLBPA joined the AFL-CIO.[32][33] After the 2022 season, the MLBPA extended Clark's contract by five years.[34]

Nickname

During his time in Detroit, fans and the media gave Clark the nickname "Tony the Tiger." The nickname came from the Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger and that he was a member of the Detroit Tigers.[35]

Personal life

Clark and his wife, Frances, have one son. They reside in Phoenix, Arizona, having previously lived in New York.[36]

See also

References

  1. Wilson, Bernie (December 3, 2013). "Clark 1st ex-big leaguer to run MLB players' union". Associated Press. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  2. "CIF Rules 'Recruited' Athletes Not Eligible at Christian". Los Angeles Times. June 29, 1989. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  3. Dickens, Bill. "California: El Cajon Valley Ends Helix Hex". Max Preps. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  4. "Diamondbacks sign Tony Clark to one-year deal". Arizona Diamondbacks. January 24, 2005. Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  5. "Tony Clark biography". Major League Baseball. Retrieved April 6, 2010.
  6. Franklin, Paul (April 10, 2013). "Tony Clark was a huge hit with the Trenton Thunder". NJ.com. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  7. By RICHARD L. SHOOK UPI Sports Writer (June 4, 1990). "Tigers draft Tony Clark - UPI Archives". Upi.com. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  8. Svrluga, Barry (February 28, 2016). "How Tony Clark made his way from the ballfield to the board room". Washington Post. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  9. "Red sox get clark on waivers". Capecodtimes.com. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  10. Nobles, Charlie (March 19, 2003). "BASEBALL; Clark a Fit for the Mets In the Big and Tall Shop". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  11. "Tony Clark". Baseball Reference. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  12. Krasovic, Tom (February 10, 2008). "Clark, Padres agree on contract". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  13. "Clark waives trade bonus in return to Arizona". ESPN.com news services. July 17, 2008. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  14. Steve Gilbert (January 2, 2009). "Clark to remain with D-backs in '09". MLB.com. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  15. "Homer-happy D-backs outslug Rox | dbacks.com: News". Arizona.diamondbacks.mlb.com. Archived from the original on January 16, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  16. "Tony Clark Game By Game Stats and Performance – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. July 12, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  17. Daniel Chann (May 6, 2009). "Aces' Whitesell Called Up To Arizona Diamondbacks". Kolotv.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  18. "Fantasy Baseball Breaking News". Rotoworld.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  19. Tyler Bassett. "D-backs recall Whitesell; Clark placed on the DL". ktar.com. Archived from the original on January 14, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  20. "Fantasy Baseball Breaking News". Rotoworld.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  21. "Demons and Angels: the best and worst Diamondbacks from the past 28 days". AZ Snake Pit. June 15, 2009. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  22. Chase Johnson. "Sports Recap". TV Sports Daily. Archived from the original on July 31, 2009. Retrieved June 23, 2009.
  23. "MLB Baseball". CBSSports.com. Archived from the original on May 5, 2014. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  24. "2014 Regular Season MLB Baseball 1B Fielding Statistics – Major League Baseball – ESPN". Sports.espn.go.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  25. Piecoro, Nick (July 13, 2009). "Clark not stunned by release". Azcentral.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  26. "Tony Clark Statistics and History". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved May 5, 2014.
  27. "Tony Clark Joins MLBPA as Director of Player Relations" (PDF). March 10, 2010. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  28. "MLB owners vote to ratify CBA, ending lockout". ESPN.com. March 10, 2022.
  29. "MLB players' association trying to unionize minor leaguers". AP News. August 29, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  30. "Minor league players unionize in 'historic' move". ESPN.com. September 14, 2022.
  31. "Major League Baseball Players Association joins AFL-CIO". AP News. September 7, 2022. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  32. Miller, Scott (September 12, 2022). "How Tony Clark Keeps M.L.B.'s Union Moving Forward - The New York Times". The New York Times. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  33. "Tony Clark's 'transformational year,' evolution as MLBPA leader brings 5-year extension". The Athletic. Retrieved November 29, 2022.
  34. "Tony Clark Baseball Stats". Baseball Almanac. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  35. "Opinion: Union chief Tony Clark still optimistic MLB will play games in some way in 2020". USA Today.
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