It was a big deal when the MLBPA went after the Florida Marlins a few months ago, essentially accusing them of pocketing revenue sharing money and not investing enough to improve the team anywhere apart from the bottom line. It was a serious enough criticism that even Major League Baseball agreed and the league, the union and the Marlins entered into an agreement pursuant to which the Marlins will raise their payroll over the next few years.
When that all went down fingers pointed at the other low-payroll, revenue sharing-receiving teams, and people wondered when they would be similarly pursued. Speculation immediately focused on the Pirates, who have cut payroll substantially in recent years despite moving into a nice new ballpark.
But you can forget about going after the Pirates. Union head Michael Weiner likes what they’re doing just fine:
“Are we happy with the current state of the Pirates’ payroll? Of
course we’d like to see it higher. Is it tough to see when they sign a player
like Nate McLouth and then trade him? Is it tough to see some of the
other things they’ve done? Sure. But, to date, we have been convinced
the Pirates have a plan.
“You guys have as beautiful a ballpark as there is in
the major leagues. You’ve got a phenomenal fan base and history.
(Ownership has) a plan in place, so we’ll continue to monitor it. We’ve
been satisfied so far.”
Those comments were made to students at at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law. Inherent in those comments, I think, is an acknowledgment that the Pirates are at a very different place on the success cycle than are the Marlins. Indeed, the shortest path between losing and winning for the Pirates is through lower payroll and giving young kids a chance as opposed to paying for more older veterans who won’t be around the next time the team has a chance to win. Compare this with the Marlins who have, for the past couple of years anyway, been a player or two away from being serious playoff contenders.
The union is often accused of being interested in nothing other than high salaries. And to be fair, getting high salaries for its members is part of its mission. But there’s some reality and pragmatism afoot in today’s MLBPA, and this is some evidence of it.