October 20, 2017

The Member of Congress Who Can Help The Retirees w/o MLB Pensions

September 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Florida United States Representative Matt Gaetz (Republican — 1st District) can help Orlando’s Bill Denehy, Pensacola’s Jim Hutto and 500 or so former players who don’t receive pensions from having played Major League Baseball (MLB).

Denehy, who coached Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell at the University of Hartford, was once a bright pitching prospect. He was famously traded from the New York Mets to the Washington Senators for Gil Hodges and $100,000 in cash. But his real notoriety stems from having sued MLB as a result of allegedly being injected with cortisone 57 times by team trainers. Now blind in both eyes, Denehy wrote a 2014 book entitled Rage: The Legend of ‘Baseball Bill’ Denehy that he co-authored with acclaimed sports journalist Peter Golenbock, who teaches courses at the University of Southern Florida on the influence sports has had on American history.

Hutto, who was recently profiled by WEAR’s Dan Shugart, turns 70 on October 17. His best season was in 1970 when, in 57 games for the Phillies, he came up to the plate 92 times and collected 17 hits, including three homeruns. He scored seven runs and drove in 12 that season. See, the rules for receiving MLB pensions changed in 1980. Hutto and the other men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played between 1947 – 1979  needed to be eligible for the pension plan. Instead, they all receive nonqualified retirement payments based on a complicated formula that had to have been calculated by an actuary.

In brief, for every quarter of service a man had accrued, he’d get $625. Four quarters (one year) totaled $2,500. Sixteen quarters (four years) amounts to the maximum, $10,000. And that payment is before taxes are taken out. Meanwhile, a vested retiree receiving an MLB pension can earn as much as $210,000. Even the minimum pension for just 43 game days is a reported $34,000.  The payment can’t be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary either. So neither of Hutto’s two daughters will receive that payment when he dies. These men are also not eligible to be covered under the league’s umbrella health insurance plan.

Health coverage would have come in handy for Hutto, who has underwent six back procedures, six knee surgeries and two total knee replacements. He also nearly died from an aneurysm that his doctor said was most likely attributable to a severe blow to the head after having been in so many home plate collisions. 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 both the league and the union representing the current players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association, are 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.

Because of this arrogance, I believe it’s time to repeal baseball’s 95-year-old anti-trust exemption. MLB maintains the loss of the antitrust exemption would affect its minor league operations nationwide and create instability through team relocations. A Stanford professor emeritus of economics, Roger Noll doesn’t believe baseball would suffer much if the exemption were tossed. “While baseball may not like having less control over where teams play and where they can televise their games, it would not be economically threatened if its antitrust exemption were to be weakened or even eliminated,” Noll told the Stanford News Service two years ago.

In a 2002 Slate article, Rutgers’ David Greenberg wrote that the exemption “stems from the government’s naive insistence that baseball is only a game. Alone among professional sports, baseball enjoys immunity from antitrust prosecution because neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has been willing to overturn an ancient decision that baseball is merely an amusement, not a commercial enterprise.” The idea that baseball isn’t a commercial enterprise is ludicrous, especially since Forbes recently reported that the average team’s value is $1.54 billion — 19 percent more than in 2016.

That’s where Representative Gaetz, who serves on the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and AntiTrust Law that has jurisdiction over the repeal of the exemption, can help. He can remind the 30 club owners that they’re lucky to have their exemption. And that  they should do right by the retirees like Denehy and Hutto who aren’t as fortunate as them.

If you live in Florida and, like Hutto, are a constituent of Representative Gaetz, who faces a tough re-election bid next year against retired Navy pilot Phil Ehr, please feel free to call his district office at (850) 479-1183 and tell him how important this issue is. Even if you’re not his constituent, but you’re a baseball fan who wants to help get these men the monies they’ve been cheated out of, please consider calling him. His Florida office is located on South Palafox Place, in Pensacola; otherwise, please contact his office in Washington, D.C. at (202) 225-4136.

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