Owners' whining doesn't wash
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BERARDINO: Owners' whining doesn't wash
Published August 26, 2002
Your boss is a liar. He has lied to you for years.
His company is forever on the verge of bankruptcy, he claims, but then he always seems to fork over a year-end raise, and then some. A couple of times you've had to take him to court to shake out the hidden nickels, but judge and jury have always sided with you, have always seen the old coot for what he is.
A liar. Habitual. Convicted. Unrepentant.
Your boss rips you behind your back and sometimes even to your face. He calls you greedy, arrogant, foolish. He runs to the national media to deliver these insults. He hires slimy minions to help tear you down.
You are always the reason his company is supposedly struggling, even though, deep down, he knows that without you there is no product. Even though, deep down, he knows his company isn't really struggling at all. In fact, it's appreciating like a prime piece of Manhattan real estate.
Your boss is a blatant liar. You've known this forever. But now he's standing in front of you, hat in hand, asking for your help. No, really, this time he needs your understanding.
He swears it's true. He needs you to give back some of that generous salary you've been pocketing, needs you to bail him out of a jam he got into entirely on his own.
Or else there won't be any raise next year. Or else the company could go bankrupt. Or else you might have to hit the pavement and find another job.
What do you do? Ignore your boss' reputation? Pull out your wallet and ask him how much he needs? Help him out even though you know he'll only turn around and rip you again as soon as he's cleaned your clock?
Or does a knowing smirk cross your face as you shake your head at this man's unmitigated gall? Do you tell your lying boss to get lost, tell him you're not buying his act?
This is the choice facing Major League Baseball players with the Aug. 30 strike date just four days away.
Oh, sorry, this is the choice facing "greedy ballplayers." At least that's how the typical American views the situation as baseball and the nation brace for the sport's ninth work stoppage since 1972.
Granted, choosing a side in this annoying battle is like trying to determine who is more incomprehensible, Anna Nicole Smith or Ozzy Osbourne. Yet on several levels, the players are once again getting a bum rap.
Sure, they are arrogant mercenaries, but at least they are honest about their pocket-lining motives. Baseball's owners are rich, arrogant and disingenuous, too, and that makes them entirely unworthy of your sympathy.
We hear plenty these days about the players' $2.38 million average salary, but little about the $700 million sale price for the Boston Red Sox last winter. Or that the Jacobs brothers turned a $35 million investment in 1986 into a $323 million windfall for the Cleveland Indians two years ago.
We hear about the union's obstinacy, but little about the concessions the players have made in recent weeks: random testing for steroids, a worldwide draft, significantly increased revenue sharing and a new luxury tax even though the owners admit the previous experiment flopped. In return, the players have asked for little beyond the status quo.
We hear about the owners graciously increasing the minimum salary by 50 percent, but little about how that will cost them perhaps an additional $25 million annually, pocket change in a $3.6 billion industry.
We hear about the owners' claim of $232 million in losses last year, but little about former Mets owner Nelson Doubleday's charges of severely inflated losses and undervalued assets. (Bud Selig sure made Doubleday's lawsuit go away in a hurry, huh?)
We hear how the pendulum has swung too far in the players' direction, but little about the $280 million in collusion damages owners were forced to pay in the late '80s.
We hear about the sport's competitive imbalance, but little about the fact 21 of 30 teams have made the playoffs in the past seven years with a 22nd, the Minnesota Twins, Team Contraction, roaring toward October. All this has happened under the current economic system, the one that is supposedly broken.
We hear how something must be done to stop George Steinbrenner and his mighty Bronx Bombers, but no one seems to remember the Yankees were just as dominant in the '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s and '70s. Your father's Kansas City Athletics have simply become today's Kansas City Royals.
We hear about the need to overhaul the game's economic system when, in fact, the Yankees would have missed the playoffs altogether in four of the past seven years under the old two-division, no-wild-card setup.
We hear from the clubs' personable negotiator Rob Manfred about their "modest" desire to install a "speed bump" at the top of the payroll structure. But what, then, to make of Rangers owner Tom Hicks and his recent pledge that no halfway intelligent club would ever go beyond the salary cap, er, luxury-tax threshold?
We hear about the frowning lawyerese spoken by union chief Donald Fehr, about how there are icebergs in Antarctica that are warmer and fuzzier, but little about the fact that Fehr, for all his shortcomings, has never been caught in a public lie.
So which side to take in this unsightly tug of war? "Greedy ballplayers" or the liars who employ them?
Seems to me the answer is obvious. Sad, but obvious.
Mike Berardino can be reached at email@example.com.
Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Seems to me the answer is obvious. Sad, but obvious.
What answer is that? That we should hold our noses and let the players strike? If that's the case, why not call a strike at the end of the season, once the WS is over? Let them not report to training camp next year. I have no sympathy for the players if they ruin this current season
ok greg, then pick your hero from this brady bunch:
by Ken Rosenthal
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Hawks make labor deal difficult
August 26, 2002 Print it
Ask any player if he wants a strike, and he would say no. Ask most owners, and their answer would be the same. But then there are the "hawks," the hard-line owners who would risk destroying Major League Baseball while claiming they're trying to save it.
Padres owner John Moores spoke for the hawks when he said eight to 10 owners were prepared to shut down baseball for an entire season to get the labor agreement they wanted. But a moderate owner, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the hard-line group consists of no more than six members, and several were likely to fall in line with the 75 percent that commissioner Bud Selig needs to approve a new deal.
"Bud has the votes," the moderate said. "He can control that group."
Union chief Donald Fehr cares more about free-market principles than pennant races, but it is the hawks who pose the greatest threat to a settlement, the hawks who want to hit a negotiating grand slam and accomplish their long-standing goal of crushing the players' union. By refusing to compromise -- and adding allies -- these seven owners could assemble a boardroom version of Murderers' Row:
Jerry Reinsdorf, White Sox. Jerry Baseball, he's not. Did Reinsdorf ride the bench in Little League? He acts as if he despises the sport.
He built the worst of the new ballparks. He briefly made the reviled Albert Belle the game's highest-paid player. And his team again is an underachieving mess.
Perhaps MLB should consider itself lucky. If Derek Jeter played for the White Sox, Reinsdorf would run him out of Chicago, Michael Jordan style.
Carl Pohlad, Twins. It would be one of the most delicious scenes in major-league history: Selig awarding the World Series trophy to Pohlad, his co-conspirator in the plot to eliminate the Twins.
"An aberration!" Selig would lament, weeping on Pohlad's shoulder.
"I want out!" Pohlad would blurt, slamming the trophy to the ground.
Pohlad worked the current system to his benefit the past two seasons, turning small operating profits by pocketing his revenue-sharing proceeds. Alas, Pohlad couldn't get MLB to eliminate his team before many of his young stars were due raises, and his payroll increased $27 million in 2001 to its current $40 million.
After such trauma, he's entitled to a new ballpark and salary clamp-down.
Moores. His off-the-field troubles far exceed any player's. Moores' failing computer software company, Peregrine Systems, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for alleged fraudulent accounting practices. Fortune Magazine lists him as No. 14 in its "Greedy Bunch," an honor he "earned" by cashing out $646 million in Peregrine stock; the company now is trading at 41 cents per share.
Moores' ownership of the Padres doesn't inspire confidence, either. The team reached the 1998 World Series with the game's 10th-highest payroll. Voters approved a new ballpark two weeks later, and Moores hasn't spent since, fielding a bottom-six payroll each of the past three seasons.
David Glass, Royals. The next agreement might compensate the Royals for their lack of revenue but not for their lack of a clue. Glass says that in professional sports, "you have a responsibility to your competitor, not only to keep him in business but to make sure he's competitive." Well, the Royals sure were helpful to the A's when they traded them Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon and received little in return.
Using the so-called "competitive-balance tax" to assist teams like the Royals, Tigers, Devil Rays and Brewers is like leaving part of your estate to an irresponsible nephew -- or trying to fix the leaky roof at Milwaukee's Miller Park.
Drayton McLane, Astros. He followed a familiar pattern, spending freely, then preaching restraint. None other than George W. Bush, then general managing partner of the Rangers, reprimanded McLane for more than doubling the Astros' payroll after McLane purchased the team in 1993.
"Drayton is going to learn," Bush said then. "Today's glorious signing can be tomorrow's bust. Sometimes, you just can't satisfy the public or the press."
The Astros remain a model organization, but the opening of a new ballpark in 2000 didn't provide the expected panacea. Take heart, Mr. President: McLane no longer is trying as hard to satisfy the public or the press.
Stan Kasten, Braves. Of course he's a hawk; he's president of the NBA Hawks as well as the NHL Thrashers. Like Reinsdorf, Kasten was part of the 1998-99 NBA lockout that shortened the regular season but produced a favorable settlement for the owners. He longs for a similar outcome in baseball -- especially at a time when the Braves' owner, AOL Time Warner, no longer is in position to support a high payroll.
Tom Hicks, Rangers. It's only appropriate to save the most ridiculous for last. Awarding Alex Rodriguez the richest contract in history actually was one of Hicks' better moves, at least compared with the wasteful deals he gave Chan Ho Park, Todd Van Poppel, Jay Powell and Juan Gonzalez last offseason. Now, with his team headed toward a second straight last-place finish, Hicks wants to be saved from himself.
Not to worry -- watching the Rangers squeeze under the luxury-tax threshold will be more amusing than watching Anna Nicole Smith squeeze into a tight miniskirt.
Senior writer Ken Rosenthal covers baseball for The Sporting News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Astros remain a model organization, but the opening of a new ballpark in 2000 didn't provide the expected panacea.
Paging Bud Selig...
It scares the bejeebers out of me that the owners have apparently adopted their "hawkish" stance, and yet they don't have a brain among them. Fine. I've been an advocate of MAD -- "Mutually Assured Destruction" anyway. Let them stop piddling around, and let the owners and players really kill this sick puppy off. The game will rise again, hopefully under the stewardship of wiser people.
(Of course, there's always the hope that they'll reach some agreement by this Friday. But not if the "hawks" hold sway.)