The Umpires Strike Back

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Major League Baseball’s umpires have just called themselves out. Fifty-seven of the sports world’s fattest, grumpiest and, by some accounts, blindest men have sent in their resignation from the league, effective September 2. Mind you, it’s not a strike –- more of a balk. "A strike is a union-sponsored withholding of services," umpires’ union head Richie Phillips told the New York Times. "This, in fact, is a resignation of their position and their signing with another corporation to provide services." That "other corporation" was of course tailor-made a few weeks ago for just this eventuality. It’s called Umpires Inc.

Fifty-seven of the 66 major-league umpires have already signed on with the fledgling outfit, says Phillips, and the other nine may soon follow. Why? "The umpires feel underappreciated, and they think they’ll have a stronger negotiating position if they’re selling their services to the league, rather than working as employees." More leverage, more benefits, more respect –- and, of course, more money. "Profit-sharing could even be a part of this down the road," says Baumohl. "The teams are individual companies, who share in the league revenues -- why not the umps?" The umpires’ current collective bargaining agreement (which doesn’t allow them to strike, prompting this maneuver) runs out in December. With the baseball business booming and the pennant chases approaching, the umpires must figure the timing is right. Because there’s only thing that gets more abuse at the ballpark than a professional ump -– an amateur ump.