Rob Manfred

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.

Multiple Miami Marlins passed on joining Jose Fernandez on that boat

JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Pitcher Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins poses for photos on media day at Roger Dean Stadium on February 24, 2016 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
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A brutal couple of updates on the night of Jose Fernandez’s death from Jeff Passan of Yahoo and from Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald.

Passan reports on the leadup to the fateful boat trip. About how a friend of one of the other men killed on the boat had pleaded with him not to go out in the dark. Then there’s this:

After Saturday’s game, Fernandez had asked a number of teammates to join him on the boat. One by one, they declined.

Marcell Ozuna was one of them. Andre Fernandez of the Miami Herald reports:

Following Monday’s game, Ozuna said he turned down an invitation from Fernandez after Saturday night’s game to go out with him and join him for a spin on his boat . . . “That night I told him, ‘Don’t go out,’” Ozuna said. “Everybody knew he was crazy about that boat and loved being out on the water. I told him I couldn’t go out that night because I had the kids and my wife waiting for me.

Losing a friend and teammate under such circumstances is brutal enough. Adding on survivor’s guilt would be close to impossible to bear.

David Ortiz: “I was born to play against the Yankees”

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 29:  David Ortiz  #34 of the Boston Red Sox celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning during the game against the New York Yankees at Fenway Park on April 29, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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David Ortiz has used Derek Jeter’s Player’s Tribune as his personal podium all year as he says goodbye to the Major Leagues. He continues that today, on the eve of his final series against the Yankees.

In it Ortiz talks about what playing the Yankees meant to him over the course of his career. About how the fan hate was real but something he embraced. About how the series back in the days of Jeter and Pettitte and Mariano and Mussina were “wars.” He also talks about how the Yankees were basically everything when he was growing up in the Dominican Republic. The only caps and shirts you saw were Yankees shirts and how they were about the only team you could see on TV there. As such, coming to Boston and then playing against the Yankees was a big, big deal.

Ortiz says “[s]ome players are born to be Yankees, you know what I’m saying? I was born to play against the Yankees.”

And he’ll get to do it only three more times.