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A Bitter Cup of Coffee: Postscript

Special Guest Post by Doug Gladstone, author: A Bitter Cup of Coffee: How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, and panelist for The Albany Government Law Review Spring Symposium: Baseball & the Law: America’s National Pastime.

On Thursday, April 21, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) announced, with much fanfare, that they would be giving all those men who played in “The Show” from 1947-1979, who had more than one day of service credit but less than four years, and who were therefore unable to qualify for MLB pensions, payments of up to $10,000 each for the next two years, depending on their respective lengths of service. The issue of these inactive, non-vested retirees was why I was on the “Legal State of Our National Pastime” panel at  Baseball & The Law: America’s National Pastime symposium held on Monday, April 11 in the Dean Alexander Moot Courtroom at Albany Law School.

As the author of the book widely credited with helping spur MLB to pay these men the monies they’re about to receive, I’ve naturally been asked what I thought about the announcement quite a bit over the last week or so. Admittedly, I have mixed emotions about it. Obviously, given the continuing national recession in this country, there are very few people nowadays who would turn up their noses at an extra $10,000 per year. But that pales in comparison to what some of these men could have received if they were just restored back into pension coverage.

Take Tom Bruno, for instance. A native of Chicago who pitched for the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays, Bruno finished his career having accrued three years and 161 days of service. He fell one game short of meeting the vesting requirement. One game. Based on a report which indicated that the average baseball retiree was making $30,000 in 2006, you know what a onetime retroactive check would be worth to a guy like Bruno?  If you answered, “$900,000,” you’ll realize why I’m not so impressed that he’s getting $10,000.

For the record, Major League Baseball is a $7 billion industry. Today’s player makes, on average, $3.3 million. You know what the most Tom Bruno ever made was? Only $65,000. These days, men like Ryan Howard ($125 million over five years), Matt Holiday ($120 million over seven years) and A-Rod ($27.5 million per year) are commanding what some would perceive are ridiculously obscene salaries. And part of the reason they’re able to earn that kind of money is due to men like Bruno, who frequently went without checks during work stoppages because he realized that a union is supposed to go to bat, not only for future players, but for past players as well.

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Filed under 1983 Litigation, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, Equal Protection, Finance, Sports Law

Clemens v. McNamee: What Fueled the Rocket?

Michael Carroll, Albany Government Law Review Member

INTRODUCTION

          On February 13, 2008, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing that drew the attention of all the national media outlets in the United States.[1]  The hearing was televised live, and many Americans closely watched the testimony of the star witness involved.  One month earlier, this witness had a chance to explain the circumstances that brought him to Congress in an exclusive interview on “‘60 Minutes.’”[2]  However, the situation this witness faced in February was different than his television interview.  While in front of the Committee, he was required to take an oath to testify truthfully, and he had to endure questioning from some members of Congress who highly doubted his credibility and cast doubt on the validity of his illustrious career.  The hearing “split along partisan lines,” seeing Democrats attack the witness and Republicans defend him.[3]  This political tension did not occur as a result of testimony from a government official or a CEO of an American corporation.  Instead, it was the testimony of Roger Clemens that caused this political rift.

 

BACKGROUND

          Roger Clemens, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros, had a career that spanned from 1984 to 2007.[4]  Mr. Clemens compiled 354 wins “seven Cy Young Awards . . . [and was] named to All-Star teams eleven times.”[5]  When Mr. Clemens retired in 2007, Major League Baseball (MLB) faced allegations of widespread steroid abuse by some of the sport’s top players.  With criticism coming from the media, the U.S. government, and baseball fans, the Commissioner of the MLB, Bud Selig, requested that former United States Senator George Mitchell undertake an independent investigation looking into the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in MLB.[6]  After performing this investigation, Senator Mitchell submitted a report to MLB in December 2007 which alleged that Roger Clemens (among others) used PEDs.[7] 

          The principle source of information regarding Roger Clemens’ use of PEDs was gleaned from his former trainer, Brian McNamee.[8]  At the time of the Mitchell investigation, Mr. McNamee had already been the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California as “a possible sub-distributor” of PEDs.[9]  As a part of this investigation, Mr. McNamee entered into a written agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that “no truthful statements [could] be used against [him] in any federal prosecution by that Office.”[10]  At the request of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Mr. McNamee held several interviews with staff working on the Mitchell Report.  At these meetings, Mr. McNamee was told that he faced possible “criminal charges if he made any false statements,” and that all of his statements made for the Mitchell Report were “subject to his written agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”[11] 

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