Monday, August 12, 2002

Suicide Kings and Welfare Queens

Breaking news from yesterday, the Major League Players Association (MLPA) has magnanimously announced that they will not set a strike date at this time. According to senior executive board member Tom Glavine, they feel they owe it to baseball fans to do "everything possible" to avoid a work stoppage. In my mind that would simply mean accepting your $2 million per man average salary and DON'T STOP WORKING until the collective bargaining agreement actually ends (after the season). However, in the distorted, pampered logic of the jockocracy, "everything possible" means they'll delay any such announcement by ... four entire days. That's right, the next announcment is due on Friday.

I have trouble getting a good fix on my feelings toward major league baseball. I love the sport. I love to watch the games and read box scores. And I simply like to sit and ruminate on its history, both locally and nationally. Yet now I find myself hating everyone involved with the current incarnation of the sport, the owners, players, and obviously, the Umps.

The owners are beneath contempt. They hide behind the tenets of capitalism when its suits them and then use "the special nature of America's past time" to bludgeon any critic pointing out the violations of the free market on which they base their baseball related profit margins. An editorial by Charles Euchner recently highlighted some of the anit-competitve practies ownership endorses.

Even given all of this, I think I hate the players more. Why? Perhaps because I can identify with them more, as they are still in a position of selling their labor for wages. Yet they consistently treat the public, who directly subsidize their salaries, with absolute disdain. And I just don't mean by dating more women and more beautiful women than I do - even though that's probably at the heart of my discontent. No, no, there are numerous examples, of both individual and collective behavior, of flagrantly arrogant and destructive actions by our heroes in sanitary socks. But the most galling comments recently have come from the local nine.

For example, Doug Mientkiewicz - he takes every opportunity he can to condemn the Metrodome as a terrible place to play and to state how the players need a new stadium to play in. Now, on the fist account he's right, BUT he's in no position to say so. That monstrosity, which was a product of a previous blackmail effort, was built by a tax on the public. Regardless of its aesthetic appeal, it is responsible for the current, exhorbanant salary Dougie makes for hitting .251 with 6 homeruns as the starting 1st baseman - in the middle of August!!! (He's well earning his nickname of Mr. Last May.) Furthermore, the fact that the stadium is lousy is only an issue for those who have to pay to go sit inside it - which he is not, he is an employee and a guest. Granted, Doug is a truly stupid man and likely the dimmest bulb on the Twins roster. (At least the dimmest one that can speak English - who knows the true intelligence of the Spanish-only speaking Twins' Latin contingent. But given the fact most of them have been living and working in the US for years and still can't speak the native language coherently, I think Doug might have some competition.) But it doesn't take intelligence to have a mature perspective on life and that's something Doug (and most modern professional athletes) simply don't have.

And just the other day Denny Hocking took pains to publicly assure his brethren in the MLPA that the Twins will definitely vote to strike if, God forbid, they are forced to do so. Apparently there were rumors that the Twins players would vote 'no' because some didn't feel it was appropriate to vote for a strike in the midst of a season where they were not only in competion for the post season for the first time in 11 years, but also in the midst blackmailing their host city for hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidy. But according to Denny Hocking, that's crazy talk, and they will vote in the interest of continuing the status quo of using the tax money of poor people in St. Paul (me) to pay an absolute mediocrity (Hocking) $1.1 million per year.

Any work stoppage that occurs this year will be based on one factor - the proportion of the public subsidy each side feels they are entitled too. The negotiations assume the existence of the subsidy as a given. Hundreds of millions of dollars of your money and mine will be available, the only question is, who get's more of it. And both sides are willing to crash the entire enterprise in order to get their fair share. Welfare rights anyone?