The Donaghy Fallout Crosses Sports Lines.

That didn’t take too long. Major League Baseball is going up against its umpires’ union on increased background checks, mostly for credit ratings and other financial measures. However, the umpires’ association is not exactly going to be cooperative on this one, and the parties are both deadlocked, sayeth the New York Times.  This is the first measure we’ve seen pursued in public since the Tim Donaghy fiasco broke several weeks ago, and it probably would be in place if baseball would just swallow its pride in the negotiating bit: the sticking point is the union’s insistence on adding a seventh ump to post-season games in exchange for increased checks, and MLB is going with rhetoric:

“The discussions broke down over one, and only one, issue — and that was the W.U.A.’s demand that we make an economic concession in return for the members being forthcoming on what we view to be an integrity issue,” [MLB exec VP Rob] Manfred said. He later added, “We strongly indicated that we were offended by the effort to trade economics against integrity.”

I get the sense MLB is allowing stubbornness to get the better of it. Anyone who has spent any time as part of union negotiations at any level knows trade-offs like these are fairly common in contract negotiations — exchanging a benefit for what the ump membership may consider a necessary evil, but one that invades their financial history, which is something most folks are loath to give their employer more access to than actually necessary.  Baseball’s urge to get more stringent credit checks is admirable — and completely understandable not only in the light of Donaghy, but in Fay Vincent’s 1989 suspension of two umps who gambled (although they never did on baseball.)  However, given most else surrounding baseball these days, using the word “integrity” like it’s going out of style is laughable. Give the umps their back-up for the post-season, and get on with it.(Photo is of umpire Jeff Nelson. I just went searching for a generic ump photo.)


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