You said the union forever
The MLBPA should have used their power to help support and thus end the minor league umpire strike. I know it’s close to being settled now, but the state of umpiring in the minors is bad enough without scab umpires taking twenty minutes to make horrible calls.
The MLB Players Association gets attacked all the time for being a bunch of horrible spoiled millionaires, and I’ve defended them again and again over their right to bargain on issues like drug testing, or salary caps, or whatever. It’s their livelihood and I respect their right to act in whatever way they think best benefits their own interests. I’ve differed with them on a lot of issues — their lack of attention to the situation of minor leaguers is pretty horrible, for one thing — and this is another one.
A lot of the resentment of the MLBPA comes from something most people don’t really think about though: they don’t act like a union. They never respect strikes by other unions and seem, at best, to give only glancing attention to those issues. They act more like a guild of the rich. This isn’t unique to the MLBPA. Like other unions, pro athlete or not, too many are led by the veterans and all too willing to sell out the newest members on the chain (there’s an exemption for signing players with more than 5 years of experience — take it out of the draft pick structure).
I’m not arguing that the MLBPA should honor every strike — but it should at least take them seriously. If there was a serious threat the players wouldn’t take the field over an issue like that, that’s an enormous pressure to settle things amicably and fast. And if it means that blue-collar janitors have the team’s star player looking out for them in some small sense, that’s worth a lot.
In cases like this, though, where it’s a union the players aren’t exactly allied with but who have a great affect on their working environment, they’re obligated to act. Every person on the 40-man roster is a member of the players’ union, even if they’re in the minor leagues. They’re also disproportionately the cream of the system. For example, guys in the Mariners’ minor league system as I write this who are not on the 25-man:
Yorman Bazardo, Travis Blackley, Renee Cortez, Jesse Foppert, Emiliano Fruto, Jeff Harris, Cesar Jimenez, Clint Nageotte
And then the hitters:
Wladimir Balentien, TJ Bohn, Shin-Soo Choo, Mike Morse, DOYLE(!!!)
That’s the high-level talent in the system. The Rainiers would barely field a team without those guys. Supporting the minor-league umpires’ strike would force a quick resolution to the negotiations because teams would be a team short until they settled.
Now, there are obvious sacrifices to be made. Unless the MLBPA puts on its own camp to let these guys all play (and hey, staff it with the striking umps), they’re losing development time, and I’m against that (plus, it might violate the terms of their contracts).
It means teams would have a lot harder time working out rehab schedules for players coming off the DL.
It inflicts a lot of pain on the minor league teams: instead of having horrible umpiring, they’d have much worse teams. It could be a big blow to their pockets, and minor league teams as a whole are running pretty close to the red anyway. However, they’re employing scab umpires, so I’m not sympathetic.
But for the pain, there’s a greater long-term win here. The MLBPA has been losing the public relations fight with the owners for years, as the owners have successfully painted the players are spoiled brats who are against drug testing, lower ticket prices, and cute puppies.
In sticking up for minor league umpires, they had an opportunity to stick up for a fellow union that’s directly connected to their ability to do their job, honor the sacrifices of those who fought for the collective bargaining rights they enjoy, and also to shed their image as a self-interested boy’s club where they light their cigars with hundred-dollar bills and chuckle at news of the poor and downtrodden.
Maybe next time.