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Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Good Call, Ump: Possible Gag Order and Minor League Managers

Phoenix attorney John M. Powers, who guest blogs here and who played professional baseball in the Padres, Cubs, and Rangers organizations from 1996 to 2003, relays an interesting conversation that he recently had with a minor league umpire who, until last week, was on strike:
He mentioned to me that either Major League Baseball or the Owners (whoever had an economic stake in the strike and umps’ salaries, I would guess—or both) had issued a sort of gag order on the minor league managers. The goal was to prevent the managers from complaining about too many calls either during the game or to the newspapers. I don’t know if the order was official, or if there was a memo, or if there was any kind of penalty for violating it, but it seems to bring up some interesting issues.
As we know, managers risk sanction if they publicly complain about an umpire after a game. And if they over-zealously complain to an umpire during a game, they can be thrown out of that game.

But what about regulating the decision of managers to simply go out and argue a call, which is normally allowable (other than for balls/strikes)? It would seem that Major League Baseball is perfectly within its rights to do so. But given the timing of this new regulation--made while MLB was engaged in collective bargaining negotiations with umpires on strike--it seems more the product of improving public relations than improving the sport: the fewer complaints about the replacement umps, the less public pressure for MLB to capitulate to union demands.

This is an interesting example of management changing the way a sports is played in order to enhance how the public regards them in collective bargaining discussions, which in turn may enhance their leverage in those discussions--meaning the law shapes the sport, rather than the other way around.


Actually, it's quite smart. You know, "loose lips sink ships." Or, "the walls have ears."

Anonymous Anonymous -- 6/06/2006 2:56 PM  

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