The Nub

‘Dispensables’ on the Playing Field and in the Workplace

Posted: 3/16/12; e-mail update 3/17)

A Yankee fan who read the references to Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui in the previous Nub was struck by the similarity of their work-related bind to that of public service employees: “Johnny and Hideki were models, best check like public service workers, purchase of solid, check middle-salaried job-holders.  Now they’re considered dispensable luxury items.”

Damon is 38, Matsui will be 38 in June; age has eroded their market value (in the $4-5 million range), leaving them unsigned so far for 2012.  For public service workers, what has come to be perceived as a privileged status is hurting them.  For the most part unionized, they are being laid off or subject to salary freezes and cuts in their health and pension benefits,

When Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner, who oversees baseball’s highest-spending team  talks about cutting payroll to avoid paying an imminent post-$186 million luxury tax, the message for players is clear:  young, less-expensive prospects will be given hiring preference over veterans.  Tax-aversion on a national scale has triggered the hit on the public workers.

National Public Radio reported last weekend (on “This American Life”) that 45 of 50 states had balked at including new taxes in their budgets.  In NY, where the end of a surtax on millionaires combined with a higher tax rate for many of them left the budget more than $2 billion lighter, “dire straits” has been the result.  The NY Times used that phrase to describe the “toxic mix” of growing costs and insufficient revenue in local bailiwicks in California, Alabama and Rhode Island as well as its home state.

Connecticut has been spared the widespread hits because Skipper Dan Malloy refused to take the no-tax-increase pledge heard in NY, New Jersey and so many other states. Speaking in NY Skipper Andrew Cuomo’s home base of Albany, fellow Dem Malloy took a rhetorical bow:  “We were only one of a handful of states that actually went (far) down (a taxing-and-cutting) road…  I think all of which actually allowed us to maintain educational commitments to our municipalities, prevented us from doing what just about every state in the nation did last year, and that was to push state obligations (down the line).”   Malloy also worked out a compromise agreement on cuts affecting public service unions, including the state’s team of teachers, something Cuomo could not pull off without bench-clearing acrimony.

In the NPR report, anti-tax agent Grover Norquist, who began his national recruitment campaign in 1985, hailed the way his rally has gone across the country: “We’re winning,” he said.  Based on the stats, he could have said “We’ve won.”

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The Good Word(s):  How are ex-NY players doing this spring so far?  Here’s what Marlins Skipper Ozzie Guillen says about Jose Reyes:  “I don’t know how it was in the past, but Jose brought his enthusiasm, his love for the game…That gets any team going, the momentum going forward. That’s contagious.  And I think that’s a good thing for this ballclub.”  And Giants GM Brian Sabean on Melky Cabrera:  “He’s on a mission.  It’s his contract year.  He’s got a quiet confidence, and he’s all business.”

Reading Terry Collins’ Mind: “I can’t help feeling exasperated.  Sandy Alderson said he was disappointed in how our team finished last season.  Now I have to deal with too many key injuries and too few first-class players.  We couldn’t have stayed out of the cellar last year if Reyes and Carlos Beltran weren’t with us most of the time.  Now they’re gone, and it will be a miracle if Sandy isn’t disappointed again.  And where will that leave me?”

Reading Joe Girardi’s Mind: “So far, so good.  We’re reasonably healthy, have better pitching than the Red Sox and better hitting than the Rays.  The extra wild card means we should be one of at least two teams to make the playoffs from our division. And if either the Rangers or Angels stumble, all three of us in the AL East could make the post-season.  I can’t imagine our losing out.  But if the unthinkable happens, where will that leave me?”

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(The Nub is a team effort skippered by Dick Starkey.  Comments to dickstar@aol.com are welcome, and only they can be addressed by the skipper.  Previous Nubs may be found by scrolling below.)

About Richard Starkey

Dick Starkey handled media for former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi and many other office-holders and candidates. He was sports editor of the Paris-based Herald Tribune. Perfect Pitch partner Robert Sullivan was the first to adapt focus groups to politics and has been called by Cuomo and others one of the "best" pollsters in the country.