Shameful: MLB quietly votes to allow teams to eliminate non-player pensions

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A year ago it was reported that Major League Baseball owners were considering allowing teams to eliminate pensions for non-uniformed employees. When that leaked, Rob Manfred — who is poised to be the next Commissioner — said this:

Either Manfred was out of the loop last year or else he was lying, because Major League Baseball’s owners did just that last month. From Adam Rubin of ESPN:

Major League Baseball owners, despite earning more than $8 billion in revenue in 2013, voted in January to allow individual teams to slash or eliminate pension-plan offerings to their non-uniformed personnel.

The vote, tabled a year earlier when the intention became public, quietly took place Jan. 16 at the quarterly owners meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz., the same gathering at which instant-replay expansion unanimously was approved.

Manfred is quoted extensively in that story talking about how it’s a perfectly harmless and defensible move. About how employees like not having pensions and would much prefer to fund their retirement with their own money rather than have it as a benefit conferred by their employer.

And the evidence that this is so manifestly good for employees and how competitively beneficial for baseball can be seen in the manner in which Major League Baseball took such public ownership of the vote and the change. The same league that will send out press releases when they change the type of toner cartridges they use somehow didn’t want this getting out, I guess.

I suppose many of you will note that most industries have 401K-style retirements now instead of pensions. Mine does. Yours probably does. Indeed, outside of some government employees, it’s hard to find a straight pension system anywhere these days. To that I say: Baseball is not most industries.

Most industries cut pension plans in the face of extreme competitive pressure in environments in which labor costs subject to the cuts represented huge costs to their bottom lines. In contrast, Baseball is utterly booming, and these cuts are targeted at an astonishingly small number of not-very-well-paid non-uniformed employees who work long hours and do amazing things to let these millionaires and billionaires make the fortunes they make.

Major League Baseball is totally within its rights to make this change. And, in doing so, they are conforming to trends in other industries. But just because they can and desire to do so doesn’t mean it’s right to do so. Indeed, to target the secretaries, scouts, ticket sellers and promotional staff for cost-cutting is simply shameful.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.