Quit erecting statues of living people


This has almost nothing to do with baseball, so spare me the “slow news day?” comments and just move along if you don’t like it.

There’s a story in the Arizona Republic about how people want to build a statue of Jerry Colangelo, the original owner of the Diamondbacks and previous owner of the Phoenix Suns.  The problem: local business politics make it awkward:

Ken Kendrick, the team’s managing general partner, once feuded with Colangelo, who unceremoniously left the team after the 2004 season. Their relationship is much improved, and Kendrick said he’d be supportive of any plans to honor Colangelo. But he also said it “creates some awkwardness for me to participate in this discussion.”


… it would require a new mayor, Greg Stanton, to impose a statue on a [Phoenix Suns] team now owned by Robert Sarver, who has struggled to match the popularity of his predecessor.

At John McLeod’s recent Ring of Honor ceremony, Colangelo and Sarver were introduced in succession. One man received heavy applause, while the other received the opposite reaction. How amenable would Sarver be to furthering that perception with another celebration of Colangelo?

Know what? There are a bunch of statues on the Statehouse lawn here in Columbus. And there are are tons in Washington D.C. There are statues of notable people in every other city too. And there are buildings and museums and colleges and airports and bridges named after famous people all over the place.

Know what else? Until very, very recently, all that naming was done after the namesake was dead. And there was a reason for that: so no one had to worry about whether the honoree’s successors would feel uncomfortable or awkward about it like they do in Phoenix.  Also, so that there can be some perspective about the honoree’s accomplishments.  It was also done that way in case the honoree, after his statue was erected, decided to go on a multi-state killing spree, thereby leading to more awkwardness about what to do with the friggin’ statue now that it honors a mass murderer or something.

Now we insist on honoring people like this while they’re living for some reason.  With politicians, I think it’s done to stake territory and claim some sort of political victory or to rewrite history.  Ronald Reagan got the the second largest and most expensive federal building ever constructed named after him — a building which questionably meshes government and private sector functions — despite the fact that he deplored federal power and involvement in the private sector and was an enemy of government sprawl, bureaucracy and waste. But hey: it’s a trophy on some prime real estate and that’s what matters despite the fact that it’s a pretty inappropriate honor for the guy given what he represented while in power.

In the private sector I think there’s something about rich people who are afraid of death. Or who crave immortality maybe. Give them (or their friends, because most people don’t spearhead these things for themselves) a statue or a park or whatever now so that they may bask in the glory and the honor now, while they still can. Which, hey, understandable.

But it doesn’t seem to me that that’s what such honors should be about. They should be about history and lessons for the future and inspiration to others, which are decidedly outward looking, not inward looking, and thus the honoree’s current status — dead or alive — should be irrelevant.

Maybe it’s not the most important thing in the world, but I think of all of this as just one of many ways in which an old civic culture we once had in this country is disappearing. I’ll spare you all of my other examples because they have even less to do about baseball than this thing.  But for now: we used to put up statues of dead people. Now we put up statues of living people.  And that just seems wrong to me.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.