The 2019 Home Run Derby took place on Monday, wit Pete Alonso defeating Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in an all-rookie final. Alonso took home the hardware and a $1 million prize, in an exciting Derby that could go down as one of the greatest ever. The following day, Major League Baseball Players Association head Tony Clark told reporters that the Derby could be used as an argument against service time manipulation. 

“That was very interesting to me, having those two guys [Alonso and Guerrero] in the final,” Clark told reporters, including Sports Business Group’s Eric Fisher. “When I say that the best players should be on the field at all times, the best players should be on the field.”

More from NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty:

With the winning prize money, Alonso won nearly twice as much money as he’s set to make in the entire 2019 season ($550,000). In the post-Derby interview, Alonso did announce that he plans to donate $50,000 (5 percent of his prize money) to the Wounded Warriors Foundation and another $50,000 (5 percent) to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

“I have the utmost respect for the people that put their lives on the line every single day,” Alonso said. “I just want to show my gratitude because a bad day for me is a lot different than a bad day for the service men and women that serve this country.”

Guerrero walked away with a prize of $500,000 for his runner-up finish, and he received an additional $100,000 for hitting the longest home run of the night. Vlad Jr.’s total payday for his Derby performance exceeds his pro-rated rookie salary of $468,468 after starting the year in the minor leagues.

Here’s more from the MLB on how service time works.

The backlash over teams manipulating service time in order to maintain extra years of control has grown in recent years. In February, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins was still unwilling to declare Vlad Jr. big-league ready. Guerrero did pick up an injury in spring training, giving the Blue Jays an excuse to have him start the season in the minors. In April he told The Athletic “it’s obvious I am ready” and was called up to the majors a few days later.

Alonso avoided suffering from service-time manipulation as the Mets put him on the Opening Day roster, and he’s been the biggest success story of an otherwise lousy first half in Queens.

Despite MLB‘s current collective bargaining agreement not expiring until Dec. 1, 2021, MLB and MLBPA have committed to mid-term talks. Service time would be a key part of the mid-term MLB and MLBPA discussion, according to Clark. Here’s more from the Associated Press:

Union head Tony Clark says his members want to have “getting players something closer to their value as they are producing it,” a reference to the structure that has players getting close to the minimum until they have nearly three years of major league service time, when they become eligible for salary arbitration.

He also says the union wants the “best players on the field at all times,” a reference to accusations that clubs hold top prospects in the minor leagues to delay their eligibility for salary arbitration and free agency, which requires six years of service.

Clark was voted as executive director of the MLBPA in 2013, and he became the first former player to hold the job in the modern players’ union. He played for 15 seasons, with the Tigers, Red Sox, Mets, Yankees, Diamondbacks and Padres.

MLB and the MLBPA spent this past winter negotiating over rule changes while labor relations grew tense after a second consecutive slow free agent market. The expansion of the active roster was reported at the beginning of February as one of the many proposed changes discussed between MLB and the MLBPA.

In May, it was confirmed that a single July 31 trade deadline plus an All-Star Game Election Day would be implemented in 2019 while roster expansion would happen in 2020 as part of the significant agreement.

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