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Yesterday’s mandate by the Red Sox was historic to younger baseball fans, but to those who have followed the game for at least 40 years, it probably seemed like business as usual. To anyone who has very closely followed how Bud Selig has run MLB’s front office, it was the old used car salesman making another appearance. I happen to think the Red Sox players made the morally correct decision, but that it was even an issue is sad enough in a day and age where MLB is more profitable than ever before. Revenues for the game are now rising faster than salaries, and yet, somewhere in the process, coaches being compensated for a trip to Japan was left out of the agreement.
Ever since free agency became legal in baseball, there has been a struggle between ownership and the players association to try and grab every last bit of power available and use it to get what they want. From collusion to the 1994 strike to the recent steroids policy, the commissioner and the head of the players association have tried to wield their power in an attempt to position their side for a better financial windfall. That Selig and MLB did not immediately cave in on the issue at hand yesterday should surprise nobody familiar with baseball labor history.
Curt Schilling came out and mentioned all of the issues in the negotiations in his most recent blog entry, and it sure smells of the used car salesman pulling another sleazy trick. For MLB to not put in writing what was agreed to is unusual for an organization that deals with numerous legal issues and unusual for an agreement that was with a portion of the players association. Given MLB’s decision making history under Bud (such as not allowing MLB Advanced Media to go public for fear that MLB’s true profits be available to all or allowing Loria to kill off the Montreal Expos, sell them to MLB and then tank the Miami market until they paid for his stadium), it is apparent that the officials who agreed to the conditions set forth by the Red Sox players realized that when no written agreement was asked for, an attempt to cut corners and costs could be made.
For MLB to attempt this deception is really silly, given the low cost to them, especially compared to what future revenue this will generate for the sport of baseball. Yes, it is under the radar compared to most labor issues, since it involved one team (and could have involved a second, but we never had a chance for it to get there), but upsetting some of the more vocal members of the players association and upsetting some of the labor peace that had been created in the past 12-14 years in bargaining agreements is rather foolish. The Red Sox had bargaining power here. MLB was basically at a bidding table with a complete disadvantage: they could not let the Japanese series not happen. Then again, the clueless nature of MLB doesn’t surprise me. After all, this is the same commissioner who had no solution to a tied All-Star game in his home town. In the Boston Globe today, it was reported that Selig was miffed about the actions of the Red Sox. No Bud, they didn’t want that used car that had the engine replaced with one with much cheaper parts. And no, they won’t stand for you trying to pass it off as a fair deal. Yes, it is the players’ faults for not knowing the money was written out of the bargaining agreement, but that doesn’t make your actions any less appalling. And no fan should stand for an ownership group that is willing to promote it.