Cliff Lee phillies throwing

AP Writer: Cliff Lee should be ashamed that his salary isn’t going to starving children in Africa


I’m with the Associated Press’ Tim Dahlberg to the extent he’s critical of those who are lauding Cliff Lee for making some sort of financial sacrifice to go to the Phillies. Sure, there’s a bit less guaranteed money, but we’re not in sainthood territory here.

Dahlberg completely loses me, however, when he goes off on a jag about how the money going to Lee could be better used for charities benefiting children in Africa. After listing several examples of how far the money Cliff Lee will make for a single game can go if spent for humanitarian purposes, Dahlberg writes:

I’m not picking on Lee, who is simply the latest poster player for what ails sports. It’s a seller’s market in baseball and anyone who can sell themselves for $120 million certainly has the right to do so.

But I’m also not going to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize for leaving behind a pile of money (much less than $30 million, actually, after agent fees and taxes). His salary is still so far out of whack with that of paying fans, even Lee had to acknowledge that much.

I agree that, as a society, we have some pretty skewed priorities. I also agree that there is no better time to think about these sort of things than around Christmastime. I was out doing my shopping last night and was struck, as I am every time I venture out into retail land, at how much waste and karma is floating around.

But why are we singling out Cliff Lee and “poster players” here?  Where is the outrage for the ownership group who parlayed a $30 million investment in the Phillies 30 years ago into a $500 million+ business today? Where is the outrage for baseball as a whole, which is now a $7 billion industry?  Why are their revenues not too much to take? Why doesn’t Dahlberg write an editorial saying that Bill Giles’  income is “out of whack,” and calculating how many mosquito nets the Phillies’ annual revenues could supply to a village in west Africa?

The fact is that baseball is a huge business and the players with elite talents are the biggest reason for it. Why shouldn’t they reap financial rewards for it? Why are they singled out as greedy when the owners and executives are making even more?  For that matter, isn’t it the case that everyone who makes a living off of a game is taking money that could, ideally, be better spent feeding starving children?  I make my living as a result of baseball. I bought a Blu-Ray player last night. That was nowhere near as productive a use of my money as providing malnourished children with specially formulated peanut paste.  I’m guessing Dahlberg has used his salary for a few things besides charity as well.

Yes, it is mind-boggling and a bit depressing that our society values entertainment so highly and humanitarian efforts so little by comparison. But neither Cliff Lee’s salary nor any other individual player’s salary was the tipping point on that. Nor is he the proper target for complaints like Dahlberg’s. Even if one is going to limit his targets to professional sports figures, there are bigger fish to fry than Lee.

Dahlberg’s failure to acknowledge that suggests that he’s less concerned about our priorities as a society and more interested in using emotionally-manipulative examples to make a tired old “ballplayers make too much damn money for playing a kids game!” argument, the likes we’ve heard for decades, and I find that to be pretty shameful.

The international draft is all about MLB making money and the union selling out non-members

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - MARCH 13:  A fan flies the Dominican Republic flag during the game against Cuba during Round 2 of the World Baseball Classic on March 13, 2006 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.

We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.

Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:

Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.

Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.

Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.

President Bill Murray speaks about the Cubs from the White House

CHICAGO - APRIL 12:  Celebrity Bill Murray clowns around with Chicago media before the opening day game between the Chicago Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12, 2004 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Pirates defeated the Cubs 13-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.

“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.

Four. More. Years.