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The Marlins are nickel-and-diming their young players

Feb 23, 2012, 8:27 AM EDT

Jeffrey Loria

When I was a teenager working at the radio station, I made $3.35 an hour. That was a the minimum wage back then, and my employer was smart enough to realize that lots of kids would love my job, so there was no incentive to pay me any more than the minimum wage.

But then, one day, in early 1991, my boss came into the control room with a big smile on his face and said “Craig, I’m giving you a raise.”  I was ecstatic. It was almost a whole dollar an hour more!  I’d be making $4.25! When I got home after my shift and told my dad about it, he got a look on his face that was kind of like this, and said that they had to give me that raise because the minimum wage was going up to $4.25.  I suddenly felt less special.

I’m guessing that many of the Miami Marlins who are not yet arbitration-eligible feel the same way right about now.  Why? Ask Rosenthal and Morosi:

The minimum salary in the new collective-bargaining agreement increased from $414,000 to $480,000, giving even the lowest-paid players a handsome wage.  Baseball’s economic system, however, allows clubs to otherwise determine the salaries of players in the 0-to-3-year service class almost unilaterally.  The Miami Marlins, a team that spent lavishly on free agents this past offseason, are taking a particularly firm stand with those players, according to major-league sources.

The Marlins intend to automatically “renew” the contracts of virtually all their 0-to-3s at the new minimum, a move that might prompt the players’ union to file a grievance, contending that the team did not operate in good faith, sources say.

Typically, teams give moderate raises to those 0-3 players, putting them over the minimum salary. Do they have to? No. But so much in baseball is about respecting service time and seniority.  Where your locker is. When you take your cuts in the cage. Where you sit on the plane or the bus.  There’s an implicit understanding in baseball that, if you’re not a rookie, you get slightly better treatment than the rookies do.

That should, and typically does, extend to salaries too.  A few thousand here or there is nothing to the Marlins. Giving their pre-arb players “raises” that only keep up with the minimum wage is treating them like they’re nothing as well.  It’s bad form and I hope those cheapskates either change their mind about it or get all kinds of hell thrown at them by the union and the league.

UPDATE:  Rosenthal has updated his story with a quote from former Marlin Cody Ross.  He notes that this cheapskatery has a negative impact on the Marlins:

“That’s one of the main reasons I went to a hearing against them in my second year of arb,” said Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who beat the Marlins in arbitration in 2010, receiving $4.45 million after the team offered $4.2 million.

“I never forgot about them not giving me a raise ever as a 0-to-3 player. I didn’t think it was fair for me to make the same as a guy who comes up from minor league camp and makes the team.”

So, sure, if you want to litigate arbitration cases because your players hate you, by all means Mr. Loria, continue this practice.

  1. woodenulykteneau - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    Craig, be fair: The Marlins are also nickel-and-diming some of their older players, too.

    • thehypercritic - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      Their older players had a chance to avail themselves of the free market and sign with the team offering the most favorable deal. The younger players were not.

      • plmathfoto - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:57 AM

        Not if you’re Emilio Bonifacio. Look at that arbitration case (that they lost by the way) and how far apart the two sides are and they didn’t settle.

  2. anythingbutyanks - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    The union doesn’t have a leg to stand on, unfortunately- the Marlins are following the obligatory rules rather than custom, and nothing the union can do can force them to follow custom.

    • drewsylvania - Feb 23, 2012 at 1:01 PM

      Yeah, I don’t see how the union has grounds for a grievance. But the Marlins’ good young players will be going elsewhere come free agency if the team doesn’t change its stance.

  3. Old Gator - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Meet the new Charley Comiskey!

    • unclemosesgreen - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM

      Scrooge McLoria can only read his baseball history and turn green with envy at the ways Charlie Comiskey was able to become the biggest skinflint in the entire HOF. Comiskey was so cheap he made his players pay to wash their own uniforms. Dustin Pedroia would have gone bankrupt by midseason.

      • Old Gator - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

        Most classical mythologies, like baseball’s, post a golden age of whose primordial deities and champions our current iron era gods and heroes are merely pale adumbrations, operating at several diminished removes. So let it be with Scrooge McLoria.

      • paperlions - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:57 AM

        While Comiskey was undoubtedly a cheap bastard, I’m pretty sure stories about him deducting laundry bills from player salaries are fabrications that have become “true” because they are repeated so often. What he actually did, was was cut costs for laundry services resulting in dirty uniforms that were “clean”….the were probably called the Black Sox long before the WS scandal.

    • Gamera the Brave - Feb 23, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Or Charley Finley…

  4. Jonny 5 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:41 AM

    I’d say nickle-and-diming players falls far short of what they’ve been doing to the tax payers of Florida, with the help of their local politicians of course.

    They did save 500 million dollars on the backs of tax payers. That sure helped them build a quite formidable team down there. Fish tanks? Really? Well I guess when it’s not your money…

    • Old Gator - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      Well, let’s be accurate here – it’s still costing them somewhere around $125 million of their hard earned luxury tax money too….

    • drewsylvania - Feb 23, 2012 at 1:03 PM

      The stadium isn’t really about the Marlins–it’s about corrupt legislatures approving the funds allocation because they want to increase their influence, and don’t care if it’s at the expense of taxpayers.

      • Old Gator - Feb 23, 2012 at 2:30 PM

        That is correct, sir. But then, how many politicians do you know of anywhere who aren’t dancing to the tunes being whistled by their corporate pimps?

  5. Francisco (FC) - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Wait, wait, wait. Craig, you were on “That 70′s Show?”

    • mcsnide - Feb 23, 2012 at 1:15 PM

      The real question is whether he was Eric or Laurie. BTW, is it a problem that the TV dad I most identify with is Red Foreman? On the bright side, one day it will be easy for my kids’ therapists to find the source of all their problems.

  6. randygnyc - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:46 AM

    Wait, you’re hoping the union gives them hell for following the collective bargaining agreement, yet yesterday you wanted a manger excoriated because he wasn’t following the agreement. You know, contracts and all. You’d better hurry and cover up, Craig, your hypocrisy is showing.

    • Old Gator - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:58 AM

      Considering how the player’s union nickels, dimes and then squats over minor leaguers, whom it views without pretense mainly as potential scabs in the event of future strikes, I find it a little facetious to think of them waxing indignant about the treatment of rookies under a system it signed onto in the first place.

      Then again, to think of this bunch of pampered, overpaid tycoons as a “union” at all always struck me as pretty facetious, anyway. I think of them more as a trade association or a guild, if even that.

      • granted42 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:51 AM

        Some may even call them a thieves guild.

  7. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 23, 2012 at 8:47 AM

    The Marlins trying to get away with not paying people? That’s the first time this has ever happened with them!

    • drewsylvania - Feb 23, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      Downthumbers aren’t seeing the sarcasm.

      • rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 4:18 PM

        Or, maybe they do get the sarcasm, but don’t find it funny or interesting. Just because someone doesn’t agree does not always mean they don’t understand.

  8. Utley's Hair - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    After the new stadium, the new logo and unis, the new name and the spending spree, at least now Marlins fans can once again recognize their team.

  9. bigharold - Feb 23, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    ” It’s bad form and I hope those cheapskates either change their mind about it or get all kinds of hell thrown at them by the union and the league.”

    It’s bad form? Is this important? Cheapskates, ..Really?

    Usually, I side with the MLPA on most matters but frankly they’d be shooting themselves in the foot if they make a big deal over this non-issue. Considering that the national unemployment rate is about 8.5%, even higher in Florida, … and the fact that most people like myself haven’t had a decent raise in four or five years, .. or that the increase alone in player minimum amounts to more than a significant portion of the population even makes it would be profoundly tone deaf to suggest that guys who’s minimum wage hovers around a half a million bucks are somehow being mistreated. Tone deaf on the scale of Mitt Romney suggesting that he too is included in the middle class or that he’s not worried about the very poor because we have safety nets in place.

    I get why players make what they make, .. supply and demand, .. and don’t have a problem with that in general. In fact I’d rather a few ball players be over paid than already very very wealthy owners acquire yet more wealth. Remember, nobody ever paid a nickel to see an owner do anything. The players are the product. But, working class hero BS aside, it would be a strategic blunder of epic proportions on the unions part to make a big deal over the fact the least experienced players in the game are only getting a $66.000 raise this year and suggest that they are somehow being treated unfairly.

    Keep in mind two things; 1. Owners don’t pay for anything. The fans pay the bills. 2. Considering the state of the economy most of us would pee our pants to get a 16% raise and in most cases that 16% wouldn’t come to anything near $66K.

  10. racksie - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    Ok. So the bloggers are siding with the lower paid players. It sort of makes sense. It would make more sense when guy’s aren’t routinely getting $190-250 million dollar contracts. Because that screws the league minimum guys. This is an argument without merit, if you refuse to acknowledge that first —–”The minimum salary in the new collective-bargaining agreement increased from $414,000 to $480,000, giving even the lowest-paid players a handsome wage”.—–is an obvious typo, because you had to mean a handsome wage INCREASE. Right? But fighting for the right of a guy to make an EXTRA $66,000 Over guy’s being angry, disrepected, and having their wives say so, over $20,000,000 certainly makes the guy who thinks he could have an extra $66,000 in his pocket, over a guy whining about $20,000,000 of disrepect makes sense. In no grammatical way. The big guy’s screw the little guy’s. Baseball is no different than the real world.

  11. rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Holy Cow!!

    Can I get nickle and dimed like that? While I understand the idea trying to be pushed here, the fact that the minimum is nearly half a MILLION dollars really makes me have zero sympathy on this issue. This also works out to be a 15.9% raise. After enduring two years of wage freezes myself, and then lucky to get something in the 3% in raises, I have no sympathy for the players. Buck up, play well, and get to arbitration, where you can get raises even if you don’t perform particularly well.

  12. cur68 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    I would gratefully accept league minimum for the next 3 years of my servitude to The Man. Forgive me all, if I’m not gonna get outraged for the poor sufferin’ ballplayers having to take their measly $16 000 raise.

    • rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      I would be glad to just take the raise amount ($66,000). I don’t even need the entire minimum.

      • cur68 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:53 AM

        Math fail on my part. $66,000′s an even bigger reason to cry a river of non-existent tears.

  13. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:30 AM

    More importantly – what the heck is that on his forehead?

    • megary - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:37 AM

      Ash Wednesday??

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:42 AM

        This was taken during a game, clearly – and ST games have yet to begin. I thought it was that at first, too. Also, look at the clear plastic line on his forehead.

        Anywho, he’s a douche.

    • rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 10:41 AM

      The nose piece on his no-frame glasses. But, it does look like he got smacked in the forehead by one of these poor, “underpaid” players.

    • granted42 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      The Mark of the Beast?????

    • bigharold - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:21 AM

      Banging his head on the faucet trying to drink out of the sink?

  14. sleepyirv - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    They also haven’t fixed the hot water tub AND they’re going to have to take a bus from now on.

    • cur68 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:59 AM

      Yes, but a cardboard cutout of Loria as a showgirl isn’t going to inspire anyone to do anything but run for the hills. I imagine eye-bleach would be involved for removing sections of “dress”, too. Bleah.

  15. granted42 - Feb 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM

    I think it’s a bit ludicrous to expect the Union to fight this, when you realize that even at $414k you’re in the 1% of wage earners in this country. To endure three years of that before you start making big money in arbitration and becoming one of the .5% seems doable to me.

    They get $66k more this year for absolutely no additional effort or output above what they would have done anyway. My family will probably get a $20k increase this year because, after three years of unemployment, I took a part time job. So, I have to work an additional 20-30 hours a week for a whole year, while they just have to ride pine for six months for an additional $66k. I also have to spend 30-40% of my increase on daycare, while the only change in their expenditures is 10% to their agent.

    When you consider that a Minor Leaguer who gets called up for the month of September this year will make $78k over his Minor League salary for one month’s work, it’s hard to have ANY sympathy for players’ financial statuses.

    The Union needs to get some perspective, and keep it’s trap shut on this issue.

  16. dirtycrumbs - Feb 23, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Well, it makes sense Loria has to pinch pennies b/c he’s paying for that new stadium entirely out-of-pocket.

    Oh wait.

  17. unknowneric - Feb 23, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Wait… Jeffrey Loria? Nickle and diming? YOU DON’T SAY?

    That was sarcasm.

  18. lanflfan - Feb 23, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    This is news, sounds like business as usual.

  19. rooney24 - Feb 23, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    How do people still see this as nickle-and-diming? Do you only read the headline and not the rest of the info? How is $480,000 being cheap? If you want the minimum higher, you should have set it higher. If the player sucks, he still gets the $480,000, so why pay him more? Some players will end up being “underpaid” (relative to their contributions) at that price, but most will end up not earning it. If they show promise, then you can always pay them more.

    Games really need to start. Everyone is so amped for something (anything) to happen, that they jump all over stories like this. Let’s get to actual games, so most of this can go away.

    Not surprised this is a story from Craig. Most of his stories this week are written as if his opinion is fact and law, rather than just opinion, and he is trying to get people riled up. Looks to be working for some of you folks…..

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