MLB players’ union makes another high-profile addition

NEW YORK (AP) — The baseball players’ association made the second high-profile addition to its staff in a less than a month, hiring Gary Sheffield business lawyer Xavier James as deputy chief operating officer.

James will report to Kevin McGuiness, the union’s chief operating officer since January 2014. James has worked as a special adviser to the union and received $215,168 from it in 2017, according to the union’s financial disclosure statement.

Last week, the union announced Bruce Meyer as its new senior director of collective bargaining and legal. Meyer will report directly to union head Tony Clark, who appears to be reforming his senior management ahead of bargaining for a labor contract to replace the deal that expires after the 2021 season. Some players have criticized the free-agent markets under the current five-year agreement.

James, who turns 51 on Sept. 23, is a former attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, where Meyer also worked. James has undergraduate, law and business degrees from NYU, and also has worked with boxers and other athletes.

A resident of suburban White Plains, James said Wednesday he was introduced to Sheffield more than a decade ago after he wrote a letter for DeLeon, the outfielder’s wife, in a matter with a swimming pool contractor. He had known DeLeon Sheffield through a mutual friend.

“Players are not necessarily getting their equitable piece of the pie in terms of all the business revenue that’s out there,” James said. “On the operations side, the organization is so small that it behooves everyone to kind of pitch in to make sure from a business perspective players are treated fairly.”

James anticipates negotiating deals alongside McGuiness and Tim Slavin, the union’s chief of business affairs and licensing senior counsel.

“I think there’s a lot of revenue that’s out there that could be leveraged on behalf of the players, a lot of opportunity that could be originated by players that will generate revenue,” James said, referring to sponsors and licensees.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred criticized Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, a two-time AL MVP, in July for failing to do enough to market himself.

“Mike’s a great, great player and a really nice person, but he’s made certain decisions about what he wants to do and what he doesn’t want to do, and how he wants to spend his free time and how he doesn’t want to spend his free time,” Manfred said before the All-Star Game.

Trout responded with a statement “everything is cool between the commissioner and myself.”

“I think it behooves everyone to pitch in to market players. The onus shouldn’t be on players necessarily. I think it’s a collective effort,” James said. “I think the macro issue is a real issue, which is how best can we market players, and I think that issue is right to be raised. I don’t think there should be any criticism or a focus on any particular player. I think we should put our heads together to see how we can resolve quote-unquote the problem and ameliorate the marketing of players.”