He didn’t quite put it that way, but that was the gist. Here’s La Russa lamenting what he believes to be the union strong-arming Albert Pujols into trying to get as much money as possible:
St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday that he believes the Major League Baseball Players Association is attempting to “beat up” Albert Pujols and his agent in an attempt to get Pujols to sign a record-setting contract. And that, La Russa said emphatically, “is bull—-. That’s not the way it should be” …
… La Russa said he had no specific evidence that Pujols was being pressured by the players union. But he said his many years in the game have made that “a guaranteed assumption. It’s gone on since I started managing. And I don’t think they’d deny it.”
He goes on to say how bad it is that players look to get the highest salary they can get and how there are more important considerations than that. “I’ve had a number of players over the years who took the [most] money,” La Russa said, “and they’ve regretted it later.”
We’ve heard this stuff before, but not quite as starkly as La Russa puts it. For what it’s worth, I think that, contrary to the way La Russa says it, the union would deny that they put pressure on Pujols. At least not any undue pressure. They have no actual leverage over him. What, exactly, can they do to Pujols other than to encourage him to think about the fact that his deal will, by necessity, help set the market for others?
Which, by the way, is the truth, and it’s something every union member knows when they join a union. Indeed, once the basics of safe working conditions and workers’ dignity are squared away, the “rising tide lifts all boats” dynamic is at the very essence and purpose of organized labor. Management hates it, of course, and of course, La Russa is management. But if management still got what it wanted all the time the reserve clause would still be in existence and ballplayers who drive a multi-billion industry would be making six figures.
To the extent there is pressure — and I don’t doubt that Pujols feels it — it’s not coming from union lackeys filling his voice mail with threats or whatever it is La Russa is trying to inspire in listeners’ minds (and La Russa never says anything that isn’t calculated). It’s the passive sort of pressure that comes from the realization of one’s position. He knows that his contract means more to other players than, say, Curtis Granderson’s does. He knows everyone is watching. Because it is going to necessarily be a huge and complicated deal, I’m sure there has already been some interaction with the union about it.
But would La Russa honestly have us believe that this man and his minions are putting the screws to Albert Pujols? That poor, timid little Pujols is adrift is being “beat up” by a quirky lawyer named “Weiner”? La Russa complicates everything, but in this case he’s turning what is a complicated situation into something that is black and white and he’s putting the black hat on the union.
It’s applesauce, I tells ya.
UPDATE: Jeff Passan of Yahoo! just talked to union head Mike Weiner. His comment: “We have had no conversations with Albert or Dan Lozano.”
But … but … Tony La Russa has a “guaranteed assumption!” Are you saying that La Russa is wrong?! That can’t be!