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.

Report: Mariners acquire Chris Heston from the Giants

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Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the Mariners have acquired starter Chris Heston from the Giants. The Giants will receive a player to be named later, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Heston, 28, logged only five innings in the majors this past season as he battled an oblique injury and otherwise spent most of his time with Triple-A Sacramento. Heston was solid out of the Giants’ rotation in 2015, posting a 3.95 ERA with a 141/64 K/BB ratio in 177 2/3 innings over 31 starts.

Heston will be under team control through 2021. He’ll provide depth for the Mariners’ rotation in the meantime.

Joe Nathan wants to pitch in 2017

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 16: Joe Nathan #36 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the ninth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park on August 16, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. The Tigers defeated the Mariners 4-2.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images
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Joe Nathan‘s agent, David Pepe, says his client wants to pitch in 2017, per ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. “He’s like the Energizer Bunny,” Pepe said.

Nathan, 42, came back from Tommy John surgery in July, pitching two scoreless innings for the Cubs with four strikeouts and two walks. The Cubs released him and the Giants picked him up, and Nathan went on to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings down the stretch with five strikeouts and two walks.

According to FanGraphs, Nathan’s velocity wasn’t where it used to be, which is to be expected of a pitcher in his 40’s coming back from major elbow surgery. Still, with teams always on the hunt for bullpen depth, it would be shocking if Nathan didn’t get any bites before spring training starts.