There is a difference between evil and Evil. Evil with a capital E is reserved for despots and dictators or political manoeuvrers who march men into certain death by the thousands for their own personal gain. Evil in the baseball world is not really evil. Operating within the sphere of baseball generally gets one off the “evil” hook.
Which doesn’t exclude people within baseball from operating like total scumbags, however.
Where to start? So many sensational headlines, so little time!
Earlier this morning, details began trickling out about the league and the union working hard towards a worldwide draft. The owners seem determined to prevent Venezuelan teenagers from being overpaid by a matter of a hundred thousand dollars, all so they might give C.J. Wilson $50 million.
The union, in all their foresight, will gladly accept a short path to arbitration for their dues-paying members over faceless kids in a Latin baseball academy. It isn’t difficult to see how, with a nice enough carrot, the union will enrich their members ahead of the cheap labor pouring into the baseball trough from foreign shores.
Next came the revelation that the Miami Marlins were suing their own season ticket holders. Seriously. The Marlins, they of one PR debacle after another, suing a pair of well-heeling season ticket owners. The Marlins pretty much cornered the market on contemptible behaviour but this is a whole ‘nother level.
Season ticket holders with front row seats along the third baseline did not appreciate new signage obstructing their view and repeatedly reached out to the team in search of a remedy. When their calls went unheeded, the Leons alerted the Marlins they were cancelling their seats for 2013 and withheld payment.
The fans, Jan and Bill Leon, signed a two-year agreement for their season seats. When the team learned they intended to cancel (after trading much of roster, mind you), the Fish Braintrust did what the Marlins and only the Marlins would be expected to do: they sued.
While piling on the Marlins is easy (and fun!) they claim they made multiple offers to move the seats but the Leons refused to meet the Marlins half way.
No matter what the Marlins offered the Leons, suing their season ticket holders is a PR disaster. The optics are terrible, much worse than the extra few inches of green padding that kicked off this entire ugly situation in the first place.
Finally, the most despicable act of all. The league is sick and tired off handing out free money in Obama’s America so they will stop the gravy train in its tracks. Are you a non-uniformed team employee? Sorry, your pension plan is on the chopping block.
Adam Rubin of ESPN New York has the full story on the owners “secret vote” to remove the pension plans for front office executives, scouts, team employees and the like. 26 of the 30 MLB teams participate in the Non-Uniformed Personnel Pension Plan though they are required to offer a similar plan.
Rubin’s sources indicate the plans won’t disappear entirely, the clubs just want the ability to provide their own plan to their direct employees. The last 30 years of labor history demonstrate a growing trend to eliminate company pensions, though more often than the companies which do so struggle financially.
Baseball owners are not struggling financially. They are flush with cash from any number of new revenue streams. They have one hand in the pockets of young players on the international level and now want to extract more from their own employees. Again, it is more about optics and sensationalism than reality. If they chop the pensions completely: bad. If they re-define the pensions into a more modern “defined contribution plans” that is not nearly as ugly as it looks. Still bad, still very very bad for the plan holders, but not as bad. Wee, tiny victories for the little guy!
But it looks ugly. Hideous. The inner workings of business are rarely anything but. Corporations with gaudy bottom-lines make choices that appear repugnant to you and I but, sadly, that’s how they built those gaudy bottom-lines in the first place.
So we can all look before we leap and express outrage over the big baddies pushing around the little guys but, in the end, what are we going to do? When you get into bed with folks like this, don’t be surprised when they act so…business guyish. As a bonus, this walk of shame lasts your entire life!