Friday, March 06, 2009

McCourt Initiates Plans To Steal Money From Pockets of Future Players

Did you hear about that $44M contract that Manny Ramirez signed with the Dodgers? What? You thought it was $45M? But that didn't account for the $1M that McCourt asked back from Manny, in order to fund the Dodgers Dream Foundation that benefits the image of McCourt and McCourt alone:

One of the most poignant moments this morning came when Frank McCourt announced that every Dodgers player contract from here on out with include the "Ramirez provision," which means a blank line for that player to insert a figure of his choosing for what he plans to donate to the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Ramirez started the tradition by donating $1 million. McCourt had asked him (not told him, but asked him) to include such a provision in the deal, and Manny chose the amount.

Look, I'm all for the Dream Foundation--I've even contributed money to it on my own behalf--and I think the Dodgers' charitable plans to fund cancer research as well as build baseball fields are both admirable and worthy causes. No problem there.

I do have a problem, however, with McCourt prying money out of the hands of future players. He is essentially reducing the relative value of his contracts relative to other teams who will not enforce a "mandatory" tithe. And, he's making it a pretty uncomfortable hoop through which new players must jump.

Now, in Manny Ramirez' situation, I'm not worried. Boras and his lackeys were there for the final sit-down conversation, and I'm sure that Boras would have jumped in if he thought it was financially onerous (or, if he thought it would detract from his commissions, which it probably won't). Ramirez has money to spend, and if he's smart, he's giving that $1M back in extremely deferred payments (turnabout is fair play, Frank).

But if this is what Frank McCourt expects of his employees, then let's all get visibility into how much Frank and Jamie and Drew and all of the other McCourts employed by the Dodgers contribute to the Dodgers' charitable causes. As far as I know, these figures have never been released. Show us your tax forms, Frank--and maybe you can lead by example.

If a Dodger player wants to give money to charitable causes, it should be at his discretion. Maybe he wants to contribute toward new inner-city baseball fields, but finds the Dodgers Dream Foundation's overhead structure too inefficient and would rather build the fields himself, or through some other charity. Or maybe the player deems a different charity a better recipient of his time and money than anything the Dodgers' causes provide (see Curt Schilling's Pitch for ALS, for example). The money the Dodgers give the player is his money, so McCourt shouldn't hold his contract hostage until he passes a percentage back to McCourt to play with.

And it is McCourt, not Ramirez or any other employee, who will "reap the benefits" of public appreciation when new ground is broken or new research breakthroughs occur. This, despite the fact that it's Ramirez, and everyone else, who is underwriting the effort. Ramirez foots the bill, Frankie gets the photo opportunity and the credit. Ramirez will surely already be asked to attend events as a Dodger representative, just as other Dodgers have been rolled out for the "Under the Lights" fundraising nights at the Stadium. So he's already committing to appearances--must he fork over additional funds, as well, in order to be a Dodger? And if other teams don't have similar provisions, are we at a relative economic disadvantage?

I used to work at a company which would come around on an annual basis and "strongly encourage" employees to contribute a portion of my paycheck to a Political Action Committee fund. And I always declined. I give to charities on my own behalf, a long list of causes that are near to my heart and deserve my money, and I don't intend to trump that giving with a different charitable cause that my company wants me to consider. It's my money. It should be my choice.

Sorry to play the Scrooge here--am I the only one who thinks the "Ramirez Provision" is a well-intended idea that ends up being a bad idea in the end?


dodgerotaku said...

I think this is another example of McCourt being weird and creepy. This is unamerican.

QuadSevens said...

I think it's a good idea to have the players decide on the amount they want to donate, but like you said, they should also be able to decide where to donate. And what about donating time to work in a soup kitchen for a day or something like that? It's charitable and doesn't hurt a new players bankroll after signing a small $2m deal. This provision might make signing some players difficult.

Steve Sax said...

Q7, I agree. And I happen to like soup.

cigarcow said...

Yeah, I'm glad you pointed this out, because it also seemed strange to me. Is that even legal, forcing employees to donate their salary to your own charity? As you pointed out, I like to decide on my own where my donations go, based on my own research into the charity's spending habits. I just want the season to start, I'm finally annoyed with McCourt.

Steve Sax said...

cigarcow, NOW you're annoyed with McCourt? Ye gods, where have you been the last four years???

Eric Karros said...

I gave this required charity donation clause some thought and went back and forth on it. Yeah it's a bit sketchy, but in the end I don't have a big problem with it.

I agree everyone should decide on their own what charities to donate or not donate to. And nobody should be criticized for not donating to any one particular charity.

But I actually don't see this as the player being forced to donate. McCourt can put whatever clauses he wants in an offer, and the player is free to accept it, decline it, or request that the offer be increased to offset the required donation. And McCourt is indeed effectively contributing as well, without the tax write-off, as market forces dictate that, on average, he must increase the amount of his offers to generate the same end value to the player as other teams offer (that is, if there are any other teams offering anything. Wink wink).

By the way, corn chowder is my favorite soup.