When it comes to Josh Hamilton, Arte Moreno is a craven opportunist, not a “smart businessman”

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Over at The Guardian today, Jon Bernhardt takes on one aspect of the Josh Hamilton-Angels drama that has some greater applicability to how fans approach the business of baseball as a whole: worship of the smart business decision.

Bernhardt relays the back and forth between the Angels and Hamilton which we’ve been talking about here. But goes on to note that, even if a lot of people are starting to think that owner Arte Moreno is being unreasonable in his actions, hardly anyone is noting just how free a pass he’s getting for his motives. Which are, quite clearly, to claw back as much of the $83 million the Angels agreed to pay Hamilton in the first place.

The reason so many are willing to give him a free pass on that? Because so many of us tend to equate a smart business decision with virtuous behavior:

This is the business savvy we claim to love in our rich – the weird sociopathy of the Business Decision, where men like Moreno simply must engage in whatever behavior it is that theoretically leads to them swimming in the largest pile of gold coins possible, because money is its own morality . . . The fact of the matter is that many people – a majority, perhaps – will see this as a smart business decision instead of craven opportunism, because in our society there is no clear distinction between the two. Perhaps there never was.

This is a subset of the overall fan view that players should be criticized and, on occasion, excoriated for going for an extra dollar while owners who make magnitudes greater sums off of baseball while not playing an inning of it are hardly ever questioned about it. And it’s not just some reflexive anti-union, pro-management stance, though there is some of that at play. It’s a straight up class warfare argument about stinkin’ rich ballplayers that, amazingly, doesn’t follow through and condemn the amazingly more stinkin’ rich owners. It’s incoherent, frankly, but it’s so, so common.

But really, that’s what’s going on with the Hamilton stuff. People are disapproving of Hamilton’s acts, which are borne of addiction and not malice, yet they will nod at Moreno’s efforts to not pay Hamilton, which are borne out of greed and, maybe, a side of brains.