(Posted: Feb.28/Update 3/1)
Alex Rodriguez, discount medical poster-boy for fan hostility to players’ salary levels and their union, canada was in the news over the weekend.The NYC media learned that A-Rod – he with a $275 million 10-year contract – pays virtually no real estate tax on his $6 million Manhattan penthouse. Rodriguez is benefiting from a city tax abatement program to encourage construction of affordable housing. Although the deal has nothing to do with A-Rod, the disclosure can’t help but add fuel to the national furor over the privileged position unions play in the American economic game.
Eight years ago, the players union blocked a trade that would have sent A-Rod from the Rangers to the Red Sox because he had agreed to a slightly downward adjustment in his salary. The move seemed overly protective and an outrageous example of overstepping to Red Sox fans, especially. It reminded many fans around the country why unions had earned their resentment. More than overstepping, corruption in the labor movement was rife, former rank-and-filers profiting illegally from the leadership roles to which they’d been elected. Then there were widespread pension-padding practices whereby members worked extra overtime hours their final years, the resulting elevated annual earnings the basis for their retirement pay. The perception of featherbedding was also widespread, the sense that union contracts require more members than necessary to do certain jobs. Seniority rules, protecting longtime employees at the expense of well-regarded new employees was – is – another problem. And in many parts of the country, unions were – are – known to engage in racism and nepotism, hiring preferences given to white relatives of longtime members.
All this contributed to Team Labor’s loss of fan as well as governmental support. At that stage of the game, some time after World War II, corporate franchises began playing hardball in an effort to drive the organized labor team from the field. How successful the corporate-and-media game has been can be gauged in this down economy by hearing even liberal commentators talk of labor’s need to agree to a trimming of their “generous” benefits. Those are the same benefits that were the norm when many of our parents and grandparents joined the work force. They were benefits, including job security, living wages, etc. that made possible stable home ownership, college educations and a post-war period of prosperity throughout the country.
The current contest of interests could serve to rally and renew labor’s clout in the American workplace or further accelerate its decline. Team Labor is certainly the underdog, but the final outcome is still unclear. What is clear, says Wash Post-man E.J. Dionne is the potent righty-hitting game plan:”Private-sector workers are taking it on the chin, and conservatives now see a chance to cripple organized labor altogether by killing off public-sector unions, the most vibrant part of the movement. The underlying argument is actually insidious: If workers in the private sector have it bad, shouldn’t workers in the public sector have it bad, too?”
One thing traditional labor contracts provided that the players union does not: job security. Ask respected veterans David Eckstein, Kevin Millwood, and Bengie Molina, to name an infielder, pitcher and catcher among the nearly 50 still-unsigned free agents, most of whom thought they had earned an mlb contract from someone to play another season.
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Surprise Catch: Joe Girardi took some of the suspense out of the Yankees’ backup-catcher competition Sunday on YES. Talking to Michael Kay and Kenny Singleton, he all but gave the second-string catcher’s slot to touted rookie Jesus Montero, a non-roster invitee. “He’s improved defensively and can learn a lot from the bench,” Girardi said. Where does that leave Francisco Cervelli? “He has an incentive to have an outstanding spring,” said Kay, to persuade the manager to change his mind.
West Coast Woe: Mets fans may be underwhelmed by their cash-strapped team’s post-season additions. But they have company in LA, where the Dodgers were hindered in quality recruiting by their owners’ money-eating divorce battle. LA Times columnist T.J. Simers tells of the talent-shortfall without mincing words:
“There are so many uplifting stories to tell, like Dioner Navarro’s courageous effort to hit better than .200. He got so close last season at .194. Here’s hoping they put Tony Gwynn Jr.’s locker near Navarro’s — Gwynn an inspiration for Navarro since he hit .204. It’s not that hard to gush about the new guys. How about Marcus Thames?…Maybe he’s not known for his defense, but…(he) has a career .248 batting average. That’s almost .250. Our new relief pitcher Matt Guerrier (is someone) whom the Dodgers are really counting on. Someone maybe youngsters might admire. He’s pitched seven years, has five saves and 16 blown saves, but he keeps on trying. Now you know why Ned Colletti signed him to a three-year deal.”
West Coast Consensus: The Dodger will finish third in their division. The Mets, we know, will be lucky to finish fourth in theirs.
Slow-Weaving Webb: Two ex-players who should know – Mitch Williams and Dan Plesac – watched on a TV monitor the other day as Brandon Webb did some long tossing at the Rangers training camp in Arizona. How is the former D-backs ace return from shoulder surgery going? Both ex-pitchers said (on MLB-TV) that Webb’s stiff-armed delivery signaled he is at least many weeks away from showing if he can possibly replace Cliff Lee in the Rangers’ rotation.
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