Reggie Jackson’s tell-all autobiography accuses the Mets of racism

27 Comments

Reggie Jackson has an auto-biography coming out and, based on this New York Post capsule of it, it’s gonna be a barn-burner. Even if most of the stories in it have made the rounds before, you have to figure that Jackson’s profoundly Jackson-centric view of most things in the world will make for good reading.

One story the Post mentions is one I had heard once or twice before, but can’t remember where. It’s about how the Mets didn’t draft him with the top pick in 1966 despite the fact that he was far and away the best prospect. Why? Jackson says it was racism. he said his college coach, Bobby Winkles, told him so:

“A day or two before the draft, Bobby Winkles sat me down and told me, ‘You’re probably not gonna be the No. 1 pick. You’re dating a Mexican girl, and the Mets think you will be a problem,’ ” Jackson writes. “ ‘They think you’ll be a social problem because you are dating out of your race … you’re colored, and they don’t want that,” Winkles said.

The Mets took Steve Chilcott. Alas.

Of course with anything connected to Jackson, you can’t be sure how much of it is truth and how much of it is what Jackson has convinced himself is truth. Like, I have no doubt that the Mets were aware that Jackson was good, but whether they stayed away for the reasons Jackson said or other reasons — like, maybe Jackson’s marked amount of, um, self-confidence didn’t jibe with the mid-60s baseball sensibility — is probably up for debate.

Same with the other stories, many of which the Post capsule details and which make for good reading even if you don’t plan on getting the book. Was Billy Martin a pain in the butt? I’m sure of it. Was Jackson an innocent victim and impartial chronicler of Martin’s actions? Uh, guessing not. Jackson was a great, great player. He’s also, by most accounts, a tremendous pain the hiney.

Which means that you know this book is gonna be fun to read.

Must-Click Link: Do the players even care about money anymore?

Getty Images
2 Comments

Yesterday I wrote about how the union has come to find itself in the extraordinarily weak position it’s in. The upshot: their leadership and their membership, happily wealthy by virtue of gains realized in the 1970s-1990s, has chosen to focus on small, day-to-day, quality of life issues rather than big-picture financial issues. As a result, ownership has cleaned their clock in the past few Collective Bargaining Agreements. If the union is to ever get back the considerable amount of ground it has lost over the past 15 years, it’ll require a ton of hard work and perhaps drastic measures.

A few hours later, Yahoo’s Jeff Passan dropped an absolute must-read that expands on that topic. Through weeks of interviews with league officials, agents and players, he explains why the free agent market is as bad as it is for players right now and why so many of them and so many fans seem not to understand just how bad a spot the players are in, business wise.

Passan keys on the media’s credulousness regarding teams’ stated rationales for not spending in free agency. About how, with even a little bit of scrutiny, the “[Team] wants to get below the luxury tax” argument makes no sense. About how the claim that this is a weak free agent class, however true that may be, does not explain why so few players are being signed.  About how so few teams seem interested in actually competing and how fans, somehow, seem totally OK with it.

Passan makes a compelling argument, backed by multiple sources, that, even if there is a lot of money flowing around, the fundamental financial model of the game is broken. The young players are the most valuable but are paid pennies while players with 6-10 years service time are the least valuable yet are the ones, theoretically anyway, positioned to make the most money. The owners have figured it out. The union has dropped the ball as it has worried about, well, whatever the heck it is worried about. The killer passage on all of this is damning in this regard:

During the negotiations leading to the 2016 basic agreement that governs baseball, officials at MLB left bargaining stupefied almost on a daily basis. Something had changed at the MLBPA, and the league couldn’t help but beam at its good fortune: The core principle that for decades guided the union no longer seemed a priority.

“It was like they didn’t care about money anymore,” one league official said.

Personally, I don’t believe that they don’t care about money anymore. I think the union has simply dropped the ball on educating its membership about the business structure of the game and the stakes involved with any given rule in the CBA. I think that they either so not understand the financial implications of that to which they have agreed or are indifferent to them because they do not understand their scope and long term impact.

It’s a union’s job to educate its membership about the big issues that may escape any one member’s notice — like the long term effects of a decision about the luxury tax or amateur and international salary caps — and convince them that it’s worth fighting for. Does the MLBPA do that? Does it even try? If it hasn’t tried for the past couple of cycles and it suddenly starts to now, will there be a player civil war, with some not caring to jeopardize their short term well-being for the long term gain of the players who follow them?

If you care at all about the business and financial aspects of the game, Passan’s article is essential.