Eagle-eyed do-gooders turn in Reds for victory cigars

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The Cincinnati Reds had one heckuva celebration after clinching the NL Central title on Tuesday night, dowsing each other with champagne and emerging from the clubhouse to party with fans.

(Watch some great video of it all from C. Trent Rosecrans here)

But apparently their celebration went far beyond the bounds of propriety, as team owner Bob Castellini passed out victory cigars and people proceeded to – gasp! – smoke them.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer – and Big League Stew – five people called a statewide smoking ban complaint hotline to alert authorities after witnessing the heinous act on television.

Only one problem: the city health department can’t do anything unless an inspector personally witnesses the crime in action. Hmm, that might be a problem. From the Enquirer:

State law requires a health inspector to go out within 30 days at about the same time of day as the alleged violation, Merz said. That means an inspector might be attending one of the playoff games to see if anyone is smoking then.

“We come in unannounced, obviously,” he said.

If the inspector sees someone smoking, the Reds will be sent a letter notifying them of the violation, which the team can appeal. No fine is attached to any initial violation. If another complaint is filed and an inspector responds again to the ballpark and sees someone smoking, the Reds could be fined $100. The fine escalates to $500 after that.

So be aware, Reds criminals, you have been put on notice. If you get caught smoking any victory cigars during the playoffs, you’ll receive a stern letter. And if it happens a second time, someone will have to come up with $100.

God knows the shenanigans you will get into if you win the World Series.

Will you double-dip some chips?

Lie about your knowledge of “Melrose Place?”

Smuggle coffee into the movies?

Whatever you do, I am thankful I can sleep at night knowing there are at least five eagle-eyed, law-abiding citizens out there ready to turn you in.

Do you think I was serious about thinking the Reds are criminals? Then perhaps I’m not for you. Otherwise, feel free to follow me on Twitter. Get all your HBT updates here.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.