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MLB, take care of your retirees without pensions

How much does your boss pay you to go on a business trip?

No, I don't mean reimbursing you for any expenses it cost to go on the trip. It's a common practice for most employers to reimburse their employees for gas mileage or hotel accommodations or airfare or meals. Some even arrange for those things to be paid in advance, so you don't have to incur any out of pocket expenses.

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No, I'm referring to actually paying an employee to go on a business trip.

Major League Baseball (MLB) does just that. In the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) MLB and the union representing the current players, the Major League Baseball Players' Association (MLBPA), ratified last December, provisions for how much money each player receives for playing games in Asia and England, in 2019 and 2020, were negotiated.

Those salary schedules were recently announced. And they're eye-popping.

In a July 29 article by Ronald Blum of The Associated Press, it was revealed that baseball players will receive an extra $60,000 each for regular-season trips to Asia or England, as well as an additional $15,000 for trips to Mexico, Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.

Players also reportedly receive an extra $5,000 for each international spring training series they go on. And post-World Series tours are planned for Japan in 2018 and 2020, and Asia or Mexico in 2019. Players get $100,000 for postseason All-Star trips to Japan, $50,000 for trips to Asia and $25,000 for Mexico.

Listen, I have no objection to growing the game of baseball — I've been watching National Football League games from Wembley Stadium in England for years. But by and large, today's players are millionaires already. The average MLB salary is $4.4 million.

Does Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who is making $31.17 million this season, really need an extra $60,000 to cross the pond to Merry Old England?

Oh and, thanks to the new CBA, the minimum players' salary is scheduled to rise to $555,000 in 2019.

Instead of giving these rich ballplayers even more money, here's an idea: How's about giving the 500 retired players without MLB pensions more than the $625 per quarter of service they're currently getting?

Orioles' Craig Gentry, right, is doused with water at first base by teammates after hitting a walk-off single against the Royals in the ninth inning. The Orioles defeated the Royals by score of 2 to 1 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Orioles' Craig Gentry, right, is doused with water at first base by teammates after hitting a walk-off single against the Royals in the ninth inning. The Orioles defeated the Royals by score of 2 to 1 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

That's right. Since these men didn't attain four years of service credit, they are not vested. If they were, the maximum pension they could receive is $210,000. Even the minimum pension a vested retiree makes for just being on a roster for 43 game days is $34,000. And their allowance can be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. And they are eligible to buy into the league's great health insurance plan.

But no, all these non-vested, pension-less retirees receive is $625 per quarter for each quarter of service credit they played, up to 16 quarters or $10,000.

In light of Forbes' recent report that the players' pension and welfare fund is valued at $2.7 billion, it is reprehensible that both the union and the league are against taking better care of their 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.

Some folks in the media have suggested that these guys are crying sour grapes because they didn't play at a time when you could earn a salary like Mr. Kershaw's. Or that they aren't suffering as much as I've made them out to be. Well, according to court records, 66-year-old Jeff Terpko, who pitched for the Rangers and Expos in the 1970s, filed for bankruptcy in 2010. I'm told another former player, from the Washington Senators, has had several heart attacks, yet he and his wife have no health insurance.

Former Baltimore Orioles' and Philadelphia Phillies' player Jim Hutto, one of the non-vested retirees, said he has had six back procedures, six knee surgeries and two total knee replacements and 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 an email, he summed up the issue very succinctly.

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"Baseball," he said, "has not done a damn thing for me."

Maybe it's time MLB and MLBPA did.

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

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