The resume of David Machemer, a Benton Harbor resident who attended Central Michigan University, boasts more than 1,000 victories as a minor league manager for such organizations as the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Montreal Expos.
Machemer, whose minor league service isn’t pension creditable, is also one of 607 men currently not receiving an MLB pension.
Machemer doesn’t receive a traditional pension because the rules for receiving ones changed over the 1980 Memorial Day Weekend. Machemer and the other men do not get pensions because they didn’t accrue four years of service credit. That was what ballplayers who played between 1947 – 1979 needed to be eligible for the pension plan.
Instead, as of April 2011, for every 43 game days of service a man accrued on an active MLB roster, he gets $625, up to the maximum amount of $10,000. And that payment is before taxes are taken out.
What’s more, the payment cannot be passed on to a surviving spouse or designated beneficiary. So none of Machemer’s loved ones, such as his wife, Marcia Ann, or grandson, Harrison, will receive that payment when he dies.
By comparison, post-1980 players only need 43 game days of service on an active roster to get a pension.
During his playing career with the California Angels and hometown Detroit Tigers, Machemer, who turns 71-years-old in May, collected 11 hits, including two doubles and one home run, and scored 14 runs in only 48 plate appearances.
These days, those statistics would be enough for Machemer to receive a pension. What makes this so unseemly is that the national pastime is doing very well financially. The average salary is $3.7 million and the 25th man on the bench makes $575,500.
Unfortunately, the union representing current players, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has been loath to divvy up anymore of the collective pie. Even though one post-1980 player recently told me the union’s players’ and welfare fund is valued at north of $4.5 billion, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark – a former Tigers All-Star — has never commented about these 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 care coverage.
In my opinion, Machemer and all the other men are being shortchanged by a sport that can afford to do more for them. Just increase the bone that is being thrown these men to $10,000 a year. Are MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and Clark suggesting they can’t afford to pay these men more? Given the economics of the sport, $6.07 million is chump change.
Just look at the free-agent contracts recently agreed to by new Tigers Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez: Baez and Rodriguez agreed to, respectively, a six-year, $140 million contract and a five-year, $77 million deal to play for the Tigers.
Don’t these players think they owe some gratitude to the men like Machemer? They were the men who walked the picket lines, went without paychecks, and endured labor stoppages all so free agency could occur in the first place.
Clark knows this better than anyone — he inked free-agent deals with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the San Diego Padres, the Mets, and the New York Yankees following his time in Detroit.
Newspaperman Heywood Campbell Broun once wrote that sports “doesn’t build character, it reveals it.”
What does that say about the folks running MLB and the union?
A freelance writer, Douglas J. Gladstone is the author of “A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees a Curve. “
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