And we have a winner. Well, sort of. We can’t say we have read every article on NRO but we think Elliot Abrams has authored the worst one of 2018: [The Donald] Should Veto MLB’s Foul Deal With Cuba. Elliot is unhappy that MLB (that’s Major League Baseball) has negotiated a deal with Cuba where the government gets part of the deal in return for giving the player the right to leave Cuba. Elliot is unhappy:
Instead, baseball owners have negotiated a deal with the FCB, the Cuban Baseball Federation, in which they bribe the Cuban regime with part of a player’s salary. [Emphasis added]
We bolded instead because we wanted to note Elliot’s alternative:
The cure for that situation was simple: Change the rules so that any Cuban player who escapes to freedom can sign a contract.
So, as our title suggests, Elliot’s solution is to let ballplayers rot in the Communist hell-hole that is Cuba unless they escape or die trying. To get folks out of Cuba safely you will need to give the government something because it is a police state. Money is what they want and need so the deal is going to be players for money. You can argue that we should let baseball players rot in Cuba because there are more important issues to consider. It might be that leaving them there will make regime change more likely. But that solution implies that some players will risk their lives to try to leave Cuba to play baseball elsewhere.
Elliot then disparages MLB owners. We admit that this is great fun but it doesn’t have anything to do with the money for players proposal. Here is what he says:
And let’s dispense with sympathy for the billionaire owners of MLB, who cast themselves here as motivated by humanitarian concern for the Cuban players. They’ve certainly never shown such concern before. Moreover, this deal with the Cuban regime has not been their only political move in 2018. The other was sneaking an amazing provision into the 2,232-page appropriations bill passed in March: the “Save America’s Pastime Act [SAPA],” a separate bill that could never have been passed on its own.
This leads Elliot to two odd conclusions for a conservative. First, as conservatives we hope the the MLB owners are interested in their own well being. We don’t want our beloved Red Sox to pay millions to set some nice Cubans free. We want great Cuban players to win another World Series. We hope that the owners are trying to improve their teams by importing Cuban players. Sure they can play the humanitarian card but we know what is going on.
Second, SAPA is about excluding minor league baseball from the minimum wage. As conservatives who understand the nasty implications of the minimum wage we should be delighted minor league players are exempt but Elliot is not:
So minor-league players will not get overtime pay, and there will be no limit to the number of hours they can be forced to work. Minor-league players have no union, and their salaries are pitiful. Major-league players receive a minimum salary of $550,000 and an average salary of $4.4 million. Minor-leaguers receive a minimum wage of $1,100 per month, which is just above the poverty line. MLB says it needed this legislation because it just can’t pay more to minor-league players; doing so would put many teams out of business.
To try and counter MLB’s assertion Elliot tells us about MLB salaries and what MLB gross receipts were. Most of the data suggests that MLB teams are mildly profitable at best, see Chart 1 in this. We expect better from conservatives. There are plausible reasons to oppose the deal but Elliot hasn’t found any of them.