October 21, 2017

This Joke Isn’t Funny

September 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you heard the one about the retirees group that doesn’t advocate for retirees?

It’s unfortunately not a joke.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is a Colorado Springs -based organization located on Mesa Avenue whose mission is to, not surprisingly, take care of baseball alumni. So I am completely puzzled as to why this body isn’t working more proactively to help the 500 men still alive who are without pensions or health insurance from Major League Baseball (MLB).

You read that correctly. See, prior to 1980, ballplayers had to have four years’ service credit to earn an annuity and medical benefits. Since 1980, however, all you have needed is one day of service credit for health insurance and 43 days of service credit for a pension.

When that arrangement was brokered with MLB, the late labor economist Marvin Miller, who was the first executive director of the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), the union representing current players, didn’t insist that there should be a provision retroactively restoring the pre-1980 players into pension coverage.

So the only thing these men receive is an annual nonqualified retirement payment of up to $10,000. And that’s before taxes are taken out.

Of course, very few of these men have credit even remotely approaching four years of service. Like Gary Neibauer, of Aurora, the former Atlanta Brave and Philadelphia Phillies pitcher who has two metal prostheses in his hips and suffers from Type 2 diabetes.

He’s not eligible to buy into the league’s phenomenal umbrella health coverage.

Neibauer, who has many more days of service than the one day post-1980 players like Aurora’s Kevin Gausman (Baltimore Orioles) and Greg Bird (New YorkYankees) need for health insurance, is therefore baffled that the union is playing hardball.

For the record, if you’re a retired ballplayer who played in “The Show” after 1980, the minimum annual pension you’re receiving is a reported $34,000. The maximum pension a vested retiree can receive is $210,000, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Of course, that would mean that Tony Clark, the former Detroit Tiger All-Star first baseman who now leads the union, would actually want to divvy up some of the collective pie. However, to date, he has been silent on the matter.

Unfortunately, all the MLBPAA cares more about is staging golf events and youth clinics. And while taking care of the future generation is commendable, in light of Forbes’ recent report that the players’ pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, I think it is reprehensible that the union and alumni association are both against taking better care of its non-vested retirees, many of whom are filing for bankruptcy at advanced ages, having banks foreclose on their homes and are so sickly and poor that they cannot afford adequate health insurance coverage.

Let’s hope this joke of an organization doesn’t have the last laugh.

 Douglas J. Gladstone (Twitter: @GLADSTONEWRITER) us the author of two books and multiple newspaper, magazine and webzine articles.

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