I read the Philadelphia Inquirer's sport section yesterday-I had to since it was the only reading material in the men's room at work-and instead of being greeted with news of the Phillies sweeping the Cards, what did I see on the front page? The headline on the front page was "Phils' Pratt No Supporter of Union Hardliners."
The tone of the article was a bit less propagandistic than the headline (it had to be), but basically some blue-skying by a journeyman role player was really being oversold. Pratt did say:
I'm just sick to my stomach about this. I relate more to the people in the stands than to either side. I can't believe that both sides can't figure this thing out. It's a joke.
But then he did admit that he would stand by the union.
The article then takes great pains to plumb Pratt's spleen regarding the last strike. Pratt had just established himself as a backup to Darren Daulton in his first tour with the Phillies. Pratt says:
The only thing I remember is losing money for nothing...The thing about the last strike is that it was the players like me who got hurt. The union told us that the salaries would be spread out among everybody, but they weren't. I'll stick by the union if we walk, but sometimes I don't feel like the union sticks by players like me.
Ballplayers may be excused for their ignorance in these matters. For men who know too little about Honus Wagner and Tris Speaker, how can one expect them to be well-informed about Marvin Miller? As the article points out Pratt makes $650 K, his career high. He has made an average of $344 K in 8 major-league seasons from age 26 to 34. The article call this "[r]elatively speaking...a modest living." Modest as compared to what? This is a phenomonal sum for someone this age to make especially as a backup player who has never played more than 80 games in a season. Before Marvin Miller the minimum salary was $6000. That, or slightly more, is what Pratt would be making if he played 30 years ago. If he didn't like what his team paid, he could find a different line of work since he was tied as a ballplayer to that team for as long as the team desired. Those are but a few of the benefits that Mr. Pratt has enjoyed as a ballplayer in the late 20th and early 21st centuries because of the union.
The article then points to "Gavin Floyd, their [the Phillies'] first-round draft pick last year, [whom they paid] $4.2 million just to get him to report to the Florida Instructional League." They say this is to help "understand Pratt's discontent with the union." How is this the union's fault? The player is not even in the union until he reaches the majors. A team could pay a minor-leaguer minimum wage or a $4.2 million a year, and the union has no say in the matter. That the Phillies paid this player with no professional background and no union to help him this much money tells you that the majors are still monetarily sound.
Such a misleading a factually-flawed article made me wonder who owned the Inquirer and what was their agenda. It turns out that the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly.com, its web enabler, are owned by Knight-Ridder, the number 3 newspaper chain in the country. Unlike the top two newspaper chains, Gannett (Reds) and the Tribune Company (Cubs), Knight-Ridder does not own a major-league team. It does, however, have a division (Knight-Ridder Digital) that has a joint initiative with the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks to sell tickets on their web sites via a third party called LiquidSeats.
It must be nice for MLB to have the two largest newspaper chains in the country in their back pockets and to have a deal with the third. Well, and then there's ESPN, Baseball Weekly, CNN, and Fox Sports. I'm sure that they are all working hard to bring us a fair and balanced picture of the labor talks. Just like they did in this case.