Friday, August 20, 2010

MLBPA's K-Rod Grievance: Protecting Athletes or Enabling Criminals?

This picture only kind of looks like New York closer Francisco Rodriguez is about to cave in some schmuck's jaw.

He actually appears to be celebrating a save, but after the events of the last couple of weeks, we could all be forgiven the confusion.

K-Rod was arrested late last Thursday for a physical altercation with his girlfriend's father outside the family lounge at Citi Field. He's been charged with third-degree assault which, luckily for him, is a misdemeanor in New York.

Misdemeanor or not, it's difficult to see how rational, clear-thinking folks can condone the potentially unprovoked beating of a 53-year-old man inside the attacker's own workplace.

However, that's exactly what the Major League Baseball Players' Association has done by filing a grievance to stop the Mets from placing K-Rod on the disqualified list and exercising their contractual right to convert the remainder of his deal to non-guaranteed money.

Rodriguez injured himself, most likely in the altercation, tearing a thumb ligament that will end his season, suspension or not. The MLBPA is likely to fudge the timing of the injury and claim that the Mets are simply trying to rid themselves of an expensive contract for a player who can no longer help them reach the playoffs this season.

(Although at this point, the bullpen could consist of Christ Almighty and the 12 apostles, and even they'd be unlikely to get the Mets into the postseason. Now, if only someone would tell the Mets that.)

Athletes already have very little fear of consequences for their actions. They have the financial wherewithal to buy settlements and the best-connected lawyers anywhere. The only thing they have to fear is suspensions that can cost them substantial chunks of their even more substantial salaries.

However, even those are becoming a nightmare for teams to implement. The Mets were browbeaten into only suspending Rodriguez for two games immediately following the fight. The players' union hovered overhead and let the team know that a grievance would hit them fast and hard if they tried to hit K-Rod fast and hard.

Let that sink in. Two days off of work for beating the hell out of your children's grandfather. If you or I did that, especially at our place of business, we'd be staring at being permanently out of that job.

Players' unions provide a great deal of protection for athletes. They've boosted salaries to astronomical levels, forced owners to offer benefits that players in our grandparents' age bracket would have killed for, and instituted free agency procedures that make franchises dance like puppets.

At the same time, unions continue to make it even easier for athletes to behave like boors, idiots, and yes, even criminals.

This is far from a new development. The MLBPA has been defending criminal behavior for at least a quarter of a century now. From Lamarr Hoyt trying to smuggle coke to Wil Cordero threatening to kill his wife to Denny Neagle just trying to get a hummer, players are pretty much free to do whatever they want. They can be content in the knowledge that the union will have their back no matter what kinds of discipline the team may want to throw at them.

Nor is this unique to baseball. The NFLPA won an appeal to keep most of Michael Vick's roster bonus in his pocket as he headed to Leavenworth, Kansas to start his prison sentence for running a dogfighting ring. A dogfighting ring, mind you, that was largely financed by the same contract that awarded him said bonus.

Am I advocating for unions to be disbanded? Ye gods, no. Owners having all the stroke again would be absolutely intolerable for players and fans alike.

But what would be nice to see is a little more accountability for athletes who go outside the rules of society. Players' unions need to step aside once in a while and stop feeding the perception of athletes as spoiled, entitled thugs.

If a player gets accused of a felony (which, as stated above, would actually not include K-Rod), language needs to be inserted into collective bargaining agreements indicating to the players that they would be on their own. No protection from suspension or prosecution, save whatever they could spend for settlements and high-powered attorneys.

If you get off, congrats. But don't be surprised if your contract is voided while you're busy trying to duck the charges.

Leagues, unions, and even players themselves don't enjoy the perception that their members are sometimes considered lawless heathens. Yet, the actions don't match the handwringing.

Unions should always defend their players against abuses of power by team owners and league commissioners, but where does the line get drawn? At what point is the union defending the indefensible?

NBA commissioner David Stern dropped a 50-game hammer on Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for bringing guns into the Washington Wizards' locker room. The NBAPA said nothing about it, because the position was pretty much untenable.

ESPN's Howard Bryant wrote a piece following the Vick sentencing essentially eviscerating then-head of the NFLPA Gene Upshaw for not going the extra mile in defending Vick. Upshaw's words, saying that Vick's actions "[could not] be condoned under any circumstances," were interpreted as "an abandonment of Vick and a capitulation to [NFL commissioner Roger] Goodell."

In that case, Upshaw was the smartest man in the room, remembering that the NFL's image was not about to be helped by fighting tooth and nail to exonerate a man who had committed crimes absolutely abhorrent to middle America. Again, defending Vick was an untenable position, although that still didn't stop them from fighting to let him keep his bonus.

MLB's players' union has been getting their way for so long that, for them, no position is untenable. Even a player beating the holy hell out of a man twice his age inside his own home ballpark in front of dozens of witnesses.

Maybe it just depends on which old ass you decide to whoop. Two years ago, Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon tried to choke out general manager Ed Wade. Just this week, the MLBPA's grievance on behalf of Chacon was denied.

Remember, this is a man trying to beat the holy hell out of his boss. Again, if you or I do it, we're spending a few nights in jail, at the very least. These guys do it, they get the best defense teams money can buy.

Players' unions are enabling the very behavior that fully convinces Joe and Jane Fan that if these men could not hit, catch, or shoot balls through a hoop, they'd probably be locked up somewhere. The message to the unions' memberships is less "straighten up and act like a civilized human being" and more "don't worry, we've got your back no matter what."

There's always a place for that protection. But if you've just beaten the hell out of someone, smuggled coke into the country, or massacred a whole slew of dogs, should you have any expectation of this sort of protection? For this writer's money, no.

If unions have any worry about the image of their memberships, it's time to stop coddling those who are wrecking that image. Maybe that will remind future stars that there ARE, in fact, limits to what they can get away with.

Monday, August 9, 2010

4 Quarters Radio: August 9 3rd Period

The third-period curriculum for August 9:
--Bobby gets free rein to gloat about his 4-1 start in the Great UFC Wing Wager. He's bummed about Big Country, chuckling over Chael Sonnen, and wondering what happened between Matt Hughes and the old folks' home.
--Speculation on what "Tebow Knows," a theory on what LeBron's ad for the Cleveland fans would have looked like, and wondering exactly what kind of videos Isiah Thomas has on James Dolan follow.
--In the Epic Fails, Bobby goes...pretty much exactly where we all knew he would. For his part, Scott breaks out his second old-school baseball reference of the day (nowhere near as old-school as the first, though).
--Excised music: "God on the Drums, Devil on the Bass" by Katie Melua.

4 Quarters Radio: August 9 2nd Period

The second-period curriculum for August 9th:
--NFL football is back, but first, some highly important gentlemen got inducted into the Hall of Fame. A look at them, plus a look ahead to next year's class.
--The Big-Ass NFL Preview continues with looks at the AFC and NFC North. Hint: Scott's concerned about the Bears and perfectly willing to make fun of the Browns.
--In Whodaman, Bobby honors a guy who didn't start well, but finished nicely, while Scott shouts out to a guy who started AND finished like only five other guys have ever done.
--Excised music: "Lessons In Love" by Level 42.

4 Quarters Radio: August 9 1st Period (PLUS Bonus Director's Cut Footage)

The 1st-period curriculum for 4QR's August 9 edition:
--Highlights from Scott's first press conference as an official member of the press corps. Audio clips from head coach Rick Stockstill, defensive coordinator Randall McCray, offensive coordinator Mike Schultz, OT Mark Fisher, DT Dwight Smith, RB Phillip Tanner, and S Jeremy Kellem included.
--Excised music: "The Suburbs" by Arcade Fire.

--BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! [/BillyMays] Hang on after the first-period signoff and check out some extra MT press conference audio that didn't make the show. Shouts to the folks over at BlueRaiderZone.

Remember, hit to listen to 4QR's music for free. If you like it and wanna help a brother out, click the Excised Music links to purchase the MP3's from Amazon. Song title takes you to the song, artist name takes you to the entire album.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

4 Quarters Radio: August 2 3rd Period

The third-period curriculum for August 2:
--Bobby calls in to contribute to a belated Whodaman, then offers his picks for UFC 117. The stakes are high, now that there are wings on the line.
--Scott breaks out the Olympic theme for a spirited round of Medal Stand, chronicling the winners and losers at the MLB trade deadline. He manages to find some time to wonder why anyone would ever want to simply hand money to the New York Bankees.
--The Professor also applies the deadline info to examine the state of his playoff picks. For the most part, it's good, but there's also a Bad and an Ugly.
--The Epic Fails are only tangentially sports-related, but they're both cases of guys being total dicks. Hint: one's a legendary game-show host, the other is just a crappy father.
--Excised music: "This Could Be the Night" by Zo! (His exclamation point, not ours.)

4 Quarters Radio: August 2 2nd Period

The second-period curriculum for August 2nd:
--The Big-Ass NFL Preview begins with looks at the AFC and NFC South. Hint: don't be surprised if the Colts and Saints get back on track for the Super Bowl.
--Scott observes the whooshing noise made by the frenzied rush of first-round draft picks sprinting to camp.
--Remember, you can't spell "rut-roh" without T.O. It's not too early to predict some serious Cincinnati migraines.
--Finally, there's some love for Mike Shanahan for breaking his foot off in Albert Haynesworth's backside.
--Excised music: "Funk de Umbigada" by Saravah Soul.

4 Quarters Radio: August 2 1st Period

Experimenting with a new presentation style for the podcasts, going quarter by quarter to aid listeners who can't quite sit through a whole episode in one sitting. Comments to let me know how this presentation works would be highly appreciated.

The 1st-period curriculum for 4QR's August 2 edition:
--MTSU's early practice schedule, open to the public all, is announced.
--137 MTSU athletes get some Sun Belt Conference recognition for their academic work.
--Joseph calls in to discuss the Lorenzen Wright case and what's being said about it in the Memphis area (and to make fun of Scott's choice of intro music).
--Scott lays into the U.S v. Karen Sypher (aka the Rick Pitino trial), reminding everyone that there's a little more to it than jokes about how popcorn is the only thing that pops faster than Coach Pitino. (Sorry.)
--Finally, there's time for a little bit of shameless mockery of West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins' habitual clumsiness.
--Excised music: "Gold Skull" by Miniature Tigers

Finally, a word on the excised music links. If you'd like to sample the music of 4QR, you can go to and search by either artist or title without even signing up for an account. Signing up for an account (don't worry, it's free) will allow you to search for the (almost) complete 4Q archive playlists. All you'll have to do is a People search for "rsh3121" and you'll find a set of 4Q archives, with almost all the songs we've played on 4Q's seven-month run so far.

If you like the track and would like to buy a download, use the Excised Music links here to take you to Amazon. The song title will take you to the single, the artist's name will take you to a download of the whole album.