January 24, 2006

Baseball Union Perks Hurt Ramirez, Tejada

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It’s been two-and-a-half weeks now since the drama has died down. Manny Ramirez wanted out of Boston. Miggi Tejada was unhappy with the Orioles. There were talks of blockbuster trades in the works. General managers were forced to answer phone calls from other teams about their franchise players. Superstars got anxious, and just as everyone got all excited, something interesting happened – the players balked and essentially, wasted everyone’s time.

“There will be no trade,” Ramirez said. “I’m staying in Boston, where I’m familiar with the system and where I have a lot of friends, especially David Ortiz.”

Big Papi must be an unbelievable teammate, because just like that, Manny’s desire to leave Boston was gone. After pleading his displeasure in Baltimore, Miguel Tejada even went as far as to rescind trade demands.

“I’m done with that,” Tejada said. “I really want to stay, you know. I don’t want to have this bothering my mind. I want to be relaxed. I don’t want to hear people saying things about me.”


Fans were left scratching their heads. Why did this happen and who do we blame? Should we grill the general managers for not being able to keep our favorites happy or do we roast them for not being able to get a deal done? Or do we rip the players for whining because they’re unhappy and don’t have enough privacy even though they’re making more money than any person will ever need?

The answer is that we should blame neither. Instead, as baseball fans, we sarcastically say, “Thanks, again,” to Donald Fehr and the Major League Baseball Players Union – the most powerful workers union in the country and the No. 1 greatest illness plaguing the business aspect of baseball.

The union has been doing it since 1976 when they instituted arbitration. To date, by threatening to strike, and sometimes even following through with it, the union has amassed so much power for players over the years that now it has essentially destroyed what it was trying to create – happiness for its employees.

It’s no secret that Tejada wants to play for a winner. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that he’ll never do that in Baltimore with payrolls like the Yankees and the Red Sox in his division, along with an owner who has no desire to pay in order to make his ball club a contender. So he did what any person would do given the power that he possesses – he took his monster reputation and screamed for a new venue. People do it all the time in highly competitive professions.

The Ramirez-for-Tejada deal made sense. It would have worked out perfectly for everyone, but you know the unwritten rules – don’t trade within the division and don’t pay big bucks for contract extensions to quickly aging stars. With that deal nixed, there then was the proposed deal with Tejada going to the Astros. It was supposed to work out perfectly with Tejada going to Clemens’ city in exchange for Adam Everett and flamethrower Brad Lidge.

However, the union screwed it up.

From no-trade clauses to five-year “veterans” being able to refuse a minor league assignment, the union has tried to put players in full control of their careers.

The Tejada deal would have been great for both the Astros and the Orioles, except according to sources familiar with both organizations, the trouble with the deal came with a little perk that the union has created – a new rule that states that if a player is dealt in the middle of a multi-year contract, he can demand a trade at the end of the next year and must be dealt. The Astros wanted Tejada to waive that right, and most likely, he would have declined.

That means if the Astros didn’t win, Miggi would jump ship. Not a very good insurance policy.

So the talks stalled, and the Orioles threatened to send him to the Phillies, Tigers, and Reds. All teams with smaller payrolls and lesser chances to win than the Orioles. Deals that most likely wouldn’t have worked out anyway considering the middle of the multi-year deal catch, and at least from the Phillies’ perspective, forcing Miggi to play third base would be an automatic exercise of the union rule.

So with everything being so complicated and threats of being sent to play third base with the Phillies – and worse yet, being sent to lose with the Phillies – Tejada took back all his statements.

The union has tried to make it so baseball players are more than just employees who can be moved around. The only problem is that this is baseball in a day and age defined by statistical analyses where players are valued more for production than character. Players are bound to be moved, whether they like it or not. The union tried to give players the power to determine where they would play whenever and wherever, with the security of guaranteed long term deals. However, somehow, they messed it all up by taking it to an extreme. Consequently, what goes around has finally come around, and the union now finds itself at square one all over again with all the jenga pieces in shambles.

Perhaps Tejada even said it best himself before he took back all his trade demands.

“If they don’t trade me then I’ll just put my head down and do my job. I’m an employee there. I only work there. I will keep working the way I work.”

Isn’t that the way it should be?

Tim Kuhls is a Sun Staff Writer. That’s Kuhls, Baby will appear every other Tuesday this semester.

Archived article by Tim Kuhls