Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon – the team’s players’ representative – doesn’t know me. But I know a lot about him.
Now I remember it was only two years ago that Taillon had a breakout season: a 14-10 won-loss record to go with his 3.20 Earned Run Average. Fangraphs once described him as the best pitching prospect since the Marlins’ Josh Beckett, and Baseball America has even reportedly compared him to the likes of Stephen Strasburg.
This guy is a real comer, I thought to myself. The fact he is a native of Lakeland, Florida – where my father-in-law resides – is just gravy.
He also has a personal backstory that is hard to resist – once operated on for testicular cancer, he’s also had two Tommy John surgeries. His determination to be back on the mound has been chronicled here and here and here, among other published accounts, so he should be applauded for his grit and resolve.
How can you not root for a guy like this?
Easy. Taillon (whose Twitter handle is @JTaillon19) has blocked me on Twitter.
You read that correctly.
On Twitter, Taillon enjoys engaging a lot with his fellow video gamers –he and Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese even teamed up earlier this year to compete in a $1 million video game challenge for charity.
So while he apparently has a heart, it’s selective.
See, for the past decade, I’ve been attempting to help retired big leaguers without Major League Baseball (MLB) pensions. The facts are this: in order to avert a threatened 1980 Memorial Day Weekend walkout by the players, MLB made the following sweetheart offer to union representatives: going forward, all a post-1980 player would need to be eligible to buy into the league’s premium health insurance plan was one game day of service; all a post-1980 player would need for a benefit allowance was 43 game days of service. At the time, the threshold was four years to be vested in the pension plan.
The problem was, the union failed to insist on retroactivity for all those players who had more than 43 game days but less than four years of service.
It took 31 years for the league and the union representing today’s players, the Major League Baseball Players’ Association (MLBPA), to partially remedy this injustice. So now, men like former Pirates outfielder Dave Augustine and pitchers John Gelnar and John Lamb, are only receiving a payment of $625 for every 43 game days of service they accrued on an active MLB roster, up to $10,000.
They’re being thrown a bone. That is because a vested player can earn as much as $230,000, according to the IRS.
Taillon might want to know that many of these non-vested retirees 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 care coverage. What does he think of that?
You know what perturbs me? That someone like Taillon, who has had a lot of hard-luck himself, and should therefore be more sympathetic, apparently doesn’t want to lift a finger to help those 600 retirees. Why? You’ll have to ask him.
He’s blocked me from doing so, remember?
Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of the book, “A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players’ Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve”