6:19 PM ET

ESPN News Services

Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark scolded the MLB and its teams for making a game out of the arbitration process by awarding a toy championship belt to the team deemed having done the best to keep salaries down.

“That clubs make sport of trying to suppress salaries in a process designed to produce fair settlements shows a blatant lack of respect for our Players, the game, and the arbitration process itself,” Clark said in a statement issued Friday.

Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer has supplanted Angels outfielder Mike Trout as baseball’s highest-paid player, and the Boston Red Sox again have the highest payroll at the start of the 2019 season.

Over a high-stakes 48-hour stretch, players desperate for leverage actually have a say in what they get paid (sort of).

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The MLB told The Athletic, in a story about the competitiveness of arbitration, that the toy belt — an “informal” trophy — exists as “recognition of those [clubs’] salary arbitration departments that did the best.”

Kansas City Royals second baseman Whit Merrifield tweeted Friday that awarding the belt “is embarrassing and a

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