Konspiracy Korner: Class Warfare
When does Smaug have enough gold, Dept.


Charity game next Friday!


Bill James-style free association piece on society follows.  Sports Is Life.  Feel Free to skip it if you're so inclined.


Sheryl Ring writes the Commissioner a piece of hate mail on Fangraphs.  In it, she points out a quote of his:

“[d]rawing a line in the sand based on a perception that [their] market value is different than what the market is telling you your value is,” and that doing so “doesn’t make a lot of sense.”


... and growls that this little statement amounts to nothing less than --- > a dare for the union to disband and file an anti-trust suit, using the quote above as Exhibit A for the prosecution.  (Perhaps this is correct and perhaps it isn't; a spirited debate occurs in the comments.  The degree of Ring's correctness is irrelevant for the purposes of this philosophical article.)  

Dr. D's main reaction is that it seems to be okay for enraged players and agents to say inflammatory things this offseason; why do we get a single line from the other side and it's "off with his head"?

But Dr. D's second reaction is that this country does not think a whole lot before it takes the side of the "little guy."   In this case, the "little guy" averages $4,097,122 in annual salary, and if you (gentle citizen) bump into him in the street and say "Hi" you are going to be considered a geek, a nuisance, or something worse.  It's not like these guys are your chums. 

I've never quite understood why the class-warfare shtick extends to sympathy for major league baseball players.  It must be the world's most extreme example of class warfare, in the sense of our always taking the side of the person making less, no matter how much they make.  Or something.

Finally we'll point out, in passing, that the Players' Union, as a group, doesn't care a whole lot about AA players earning between $3,000 and $7,500 per year.  That is per YEAR, kiddies.  A McDonald's worker starts at twice that.


Ring's piece is not a rant and is not the source of our societal downfall.  Still, these guys making $4M and $9M and $25M salaries per year, they get pretty blinkin' angry arguing about money and the fans are only too happy to step up briskly to their causes.  This induced Dr. D to think of something that, in Konspiracy Korner pieces, other Denizens seem to be interested enough in thinking about also.


A TV host the other day asked an interesting question:  many of us grew up in houses with guns, but weren't concerned about our school days ending with 17 people shot dead.  The number of American households owning guns is way down since the 1970's, per capita, but the shootings are way up.  When a homicidal maniac like Nikolas Cruz spends 6 hours a day reading the rage-bots on Twitter and watching the intolerant rants on YouTube, where is his mind going to go after a few years' worth of "you're either with me or you're a worthless piece of gum on my shoe"?  

At what point do we ask, "When does our CULTURE gentle down?"  If more kids were raised at the dinner table and fewer by their smartphones and by cable TV hosts, wouldn't the petri dish breed fewer tragedies? ... oh well.  Just something to consider.  Don't we all bear some responsibility for the cleanness of the waterhole?

Ok, that is quite a ways off Ring's argument against Manfred's argument about unsigned free agents, about 20 degrees off at the least.  The point is, it is open season in the USA to be angry.  It's open season to be as angry as you want to be, about anything you want to be, and this doesn't seem to be getting us anyplace all that good.

As the Dalai Lama says, you can focus on a headache until you are in tears if you so choose, and you can focus on anger more and more until you become simply a furious person totally out of control.


Manfred himself is a lawyer, and lawyers by their nature FIGHT other people for what's theirs, or what they perceive to be theirs.  This runs counter to the philosophical notion of karma:  the meek (the non-self-assertive) shall inherit the earth; the less aggressive person leads the happier life.  Is it good to set a goal, and to push through difficulty to get there?  Sure.  We'd just like to point out that it's possible to have a friendly game of softball and drink lemonade together after.

Baseball is supposed to be a vicarious substitute for actual gladitoral combat.  Here is one vote for keeping the whole culture as friendly as ... possible.


Bill James once pointed out that the best defenders are the nicest guys, like Kyle Seager; they work on things that don't get them instant recognition.  Dee Gordon seems to be in this category.


Dr D




at the instant 'affiliation' with the mega-rich athletes.  I get the whole 'labor vs. management' angle, but surely the majority of people are capable of looking past that onion-skin-thin similarity between blue collar interests and those of world-class ultra-wealthy entertainers?  (the proof of the pudding being in the tasting, t'would appear I'm off-base on that particular assumption...)

Never did understand the impetus, as a whole, to take-take-take from 'management' or ownership simply because a group(union) is capable of doing so.  I often see rationales like 'If it can be negotiated at the bargaining table, it's automatically fair and therefore beyond reproach' bandied about when I get into conversations about collective bargaining agreements.  The same argument goes for, say, my being 6'2" with superior hand-to-hand fighting skills which I then use to 'negotiate' a better deal with the 5'1" 95lb barista when it comes time to (not) pay the bill?  Of course not.  Bah, I'm going off on another tangent ;-)

At some point, We The (little) People want the billionaires who figured out how to earn their wealth to be in direct control over it.  How much better is the world for Roger Federer's mega-bucks being used (in some small part) to dig wells in Africa?  How much worse off would humanity be if, for example, all of those charitable contributions of his were run through an organization like the Red Cross, or the Clinton Foundation (cheap shot, sure...)?

If Bill Gates builds a hundred billion dollar empire with guts, grit and gunpoint diplomacy, and then he decides the best thing to do with it is to give it all away, shouldn't we begin our analysis of his actions as 'those of a reasonable, brilliant businessman who sees a LOT further down the board than the rest of us mooks on most things that interest him'?  Ditto if he decides the best thing to do is put his money out on the wheel for another spin or three, no?

I never did understand the idea of giving labor so much control over large business interests.  If labor is so business-savvy, in the aggregate if not in every absolute case, why does the phenomenon of ultra-rich tycoon (whose endeavors advance the interests of EVERYONE as they reach for the summit of success) even exist?  I want Donald Trump deciding what to do with his billions; I don't want his cashiers and doormen deciding the fates of tens of thousands of their fellow employees.

This isn't to say I disagree with collective bargaining as an idea or institution, or that I think people shouldn't be inclined to side with labor in such disputes.  But the blind class warfare phenomenon here is something straight out of Marx, and needs to be recognized as such even if such recognition doesn't ultimately change public opinion.


other than Linked In informs me she's a 'consumer rights attorney' in Chicago.  So I guess she comes by her 'little guy' outlook honestly.  But somewhere along the line it seems like she might have fallen under the spell of Scott Boras.

This idea of decertifying and suing is Boras-level bombast.  I'm going to assume someone is now going to conduct an anonymous survey of MLB players to find out if they'd support such a plan--and then decide to to spike the results, since it would probably fall somehwere in the range of 98% against.  The Golden Goose, and all that.

It might be surprising that Boras and his disciples aren't using the NBA as a talking point--after all, that's the only sports league in the world with a higher average salary (far fewer players on a roster, no cost to develop young talent, etc.).  But the NBA also employs a salary cap--FOR SHAME!  So he can't talk about that.  (Possibly the only thing that keeps Boras up at night.)  

I do note that Eric Hosmer got his $144m (averaging 1.4 WAR over seven full seasons).  So maybe there's no stonewall after all.  


I sometimes wonder at my own reactions as a fan to player salaries in professional sports, specifically football and baseball (I stopped caring about professional basketball some time ago). As a fan, I want my team to win, which usually involves having the most talented players. I tend to become angry with a talented player already on my team who demands more money, because I want that player to stay on my team. If the team refuses and the player leaves, the team is worse; and if the team acquiesces, the increased salary becomes a burden and may crowd out other talented players because of limited resources. So, I think, greedy player, just be happy with what you get, and stay with my team.

On the other hand, if my team could use a talented player who is asking for a big salary but balks at the price, I tend to become angry with the owner, because I want my team to be better, and acquiring that player will make it so. I then think, greedy owner, just pay the man, why don’t you want to win, what difference does it make to you, you are already rich, etc.

It is kind of interesting to see how the salary structure in the NFL, and to maybe a lesser extent in MLB, reflects the inequality that has evolved in the US economy. In the NFL, there is a salary cap, and there are handful of players who receive over $8 million per year, and a large number of young players on their first contracts which by rule are artificially low, and very few “middle class” players in between. The agreement to limit the salary on rookie contracts and lock them in for 4 to 5 years subsidizes the high end salaries on the second and third contracts for the coveted positions of quarterback, receiver, pass rusher, etc. Thus we witness a quarterback with all of 6 games played becoming the highest paid quarterback.  A stark example of how rules distort this market is A J McCarren, who challenged the Bengals for keeping him on non-football injury list for an entire season, which prevented that season from counting as a year of service, and meant he was a restricted free agent. McCarren said he should have been reinstated on the roster because he could have passed his physical, and he won his grievance, thereby becoming a free agent. The difference for him is a roughly $2 million/yr restricted free agent contract vs $15 million/yr contract for an unrestricted free agent quarterback.

In the US economy, which has seen wage stagnation for the last two decades and the elimination of the middle class blue collar job, one can look at the demise of union bargaining power, the outsourcing of jobs to lower wage countries, and the concentration of business ownership due to cheap financing and almost total lack of enforcement of antitrust laws as factors keeping wages artificially low, all of which are the result of the market’s structure created by rules and regulations, i.e. political choices and not 'natural law.'

In real life, is there any such animal as a truly “free” market?


In defense of the players, is in who actually earns the money by being what brings people back.  There's a similar distinction in movies that I never hear arguments about.  Nobody argues that Jim Carrey isn't worth $25 million for a film.  The writers are underconsidered and underdefended.  Then there's details like you can't figure out quite why a movie like the Patriot seems so completely special until you realize it was John Williams who did the score.

Kind of off the point though.  Earnings inequities exist everywhere.  Not to say they shouldn't at least be improved, but if even I want a raise I've got to earn it first.  Nobody just gives them out because they think you might earn it.  Well...What percentage of HoF players didn't earn in their entire career what guys like Hultzen did without ever playing an MLB game?  95%?  

That's all also different than not being payed a fair wage for what you do.  Most Minor league players wages are mostly not being discussed in all of this collusion talk.  It's mostly about the top tier free agents.  I feel the least sorry for them.  It's like complaining that Jim Carrey can only seem to get $20 million per film now.  Oh well.  That's ample compensation in my book.  Those are not the players that currently need advocating in defense of their value. 

The Dalai Lama quote reminds me of some lines from a song I wrote

"do you know you'll own what your thoughts show, whether it's grief or glee

And do we really need to help pain breed, meditating it to be?"

Not that it's totally original thought, just the way I choose to put it. 

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