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Worst Lickspittle of Tax-Subsidized Plutocrats of the Day


Gary Bettman.

I would just like to note that making a 5-year maximum contract the “hill you want to die on” is completely irrational even on its own terms. I suppose on one level that very long-term contracts allow you to “subvert” the salary cap (only because of the maximum salary that the owners wanted, of course.) But it’s also true that you can “subvert” the salary cap this way only by taking the enormous risk of taking a substantial cap hit to pay a player who will be well past his prime down the road. Long-term contracts carry very substantial risks, and it’s not obvious that a collective bargaining agreement should make the tradeoffs in advance. On the other hand, long-term contracts can also be good mutual deals that provide stability for small-market teams — do you think the Rays would be better off having to negotiate with Evan Longoria every 3 years? Ask Cavaliers fans about this.

But at this point rationality has nothing to do with it; it seems clear that it’s more about crushing the union than any concrete objective, and if the union agreed on the 5-year limit I’m sure the owners would find another pretext for blowing the season up. Which won’t stop these scumbags from acting as public trusts the next time they go hat-in-hand to the taxpayers asking for another handout. And it won’t stop sportswriters who should know better from giving us a little of the ol’ “it’s everyone’s fault, by which we mean the players who were locked out.”

…and, yeah, Jacobs does seem horrible even by the standards of an NHL owner.

…this is about right.

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  • Pretzalcoatl

    Having Verizon Center go up in “fire Bettman” chants throughout the AHL game there last night was awesome.

  • God, what is it with this site and the demonization of the white race?

    • Not enough dairy products.

    • commie atheist

      Black men can’t skate?

    • cpinva

      everyone needs a hobby.

      God, what is it with this site and the demonization of the white race?

    • Two words:

      Cold. Play.

    • Truth Speak

      God, what is it with this site and the demonization of the white race?

      That’s pretty much the predictable meme of most of the posts here. The predictability and ignorance of the real reasons behind current events makes these guys less and less interesting.

      Wish it were different.

      • MAJeff

        Cracker, please.

        • The Dark Avenger

          God protect the white plutocrats!

          • MAJeff

            It is hard out there for a honkey.

  • c u n d gulag

    Which reminds me, are the NY Mets STILL paying Bobby Bonilla?

    Mr. Bettman, when you start to make Bowie Kuhn look like a feckin’ genius as a Commissioner, the only one whose contract ought to be limited, is your own – EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY!!!

    • The Mets owed Bonilla about $6m for the 2000 season. The deferred that with interest and began owing him something like a million dollars per year for 25 years beginning in 2011. So yes, the Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla, and will be for a long time.

      • John

        So they will be paying him $25 million instead of $6 million? How was that a good idea?

        • Linnaeus

          The Mets’ ownership calculated that they could make more money by investing the deferred salary during the deferral period. Unfortunately, they were investing with Bernie Madoff.

          • Anonymous

            The Mets’ ownership calculated…

            I see the problem.

        • Sherm

          I’m guessing that many here have never heard of the concept of present day value of money, or at least don’t understand it. Deferring payments is always a good idea. Are insurance companies stupid for paying out on annuities?

          Blindly counting on Bernie Madoff to deliver 15% returns every year to make such payments is not. That was the bad idea.

          • Linnaeus

            Bonilla’s contract isn’t the only deferred one the Mets are paying. They’re also paying Bret Saberhagen $250,000 a year until 2029.

            • Sherm

              Yeah, I’m painfully well aware of every bad decision made by the New York Mets since at least the late 1970’s. But the “Bonilla is still on the Mets payroll” cheap shots from the media annoy the hell out of me because that was not a stupid move and such criticism is intellectually dishonest. If that was stupid, then every insurance company in America is stupid as well. Instead of paying him $6 million in 2000, they agreed to pay him nothing for eleven years and then $1.1 million or so for 25 years. The stupid moves were: (1) hiring the incompetent, jackass Steve Phillips who brought Bonilla back despite his contract; and (2) investing with Madoff.

              • Linnaeus

                Agreed. That’s why I pointed out the Saberhagen contract.

          • Barry

            ” Deferring payments is always a good idea. ”

            No, it’s not always a good idea. It’s a good idea when the the present value of future payments is less than the present value of the immediate payments.

            And this is where ‘worth’ includes all factors.

            • Sherm

              It’s a good idea when the the present value of future payments is less than the present value of the immediate payments.

              Of course. And that was pretty much a sure thing with Madoff handling their investments.

        • Who said anything about it being a good idea? This is the Mets we’re talking about.

          The plan was to pay him out of their return on their Madoff investments, which means that the Wilpons were nearly as big goniffs as Bernie himself.

    • Sherm

      Which reminds me, are the NY Mets STILL paying Bobby Bonilla?

      c u n d gulag — Ironically, they are not paying him on the free agent contract they gave him, but on the second year of his next free agent contract given by a different team. They traded for him because his first tenure with the Mets was so successful.

  • The owners have bee getting hit on all sides for this, including most of the writers I follow. They deserve every bit of it.

    • Corey

      Yeah, wanted to echo this. It’s only the laziest of the lazy (i.e. Darren Dreger, et al, mostly at TSN and other Canadian outlets) who are doing the “both sides” nonsense.

      Though at times that Canadian hockey media establishment really has resembled the Village in uncanny ways. Dreger basically forced a Red Wing (Ian White, maybe?) to publicly apologize for calling Bettman an idiot, which is an indisputable fact.

      To their credit, US writers have been almost unanimously pro-player.

      • Reg Dunlop

        Onf the hockey boards I frequent there is much more pro-owner or at least anti-player comments than I expected since it is a lockout

        • Seitz

          Most sports fans that post on message boards, with a few exceptions (like baseball think factory) are pretty stupid.

          On the one hand, I’m not surprised there’s a sizable anti-player contingent. On the other hand, this stoppage has produce more anti-owner sentiment than I’ve seen in a while.

          • Linnaeus

            Agreed. I read a couple of hockey blogs and I follow one of the bloggers on Twitter and I’ve noticed more criticism of the owners than I ever expected to see.

        • Barry

          Most of these people will always cheer the destruction of unions, or workers in general.

          Until it’s their turn, when they can’t figure out why they are so screwed.

      • If you aren’t following @Proteautype on twitter you aren’t getting the full picture on what bastards the NHL are.

  • rea

    If there is something wrong with long-term contracts, why do GMs keep making them?

    • gorillagogo

      Exactly right. Just a few months ago half these guys were falling all over themselves to sign Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter to 10 year megadeals and now they are crying about how long term deals are horrible for the sport. Bullshit.

      • Corey

        To be fair, something can be in an individual GM’s best interest but bad for the sport. And in any case I think we’re talking about two different kinds of contracts. The Parise and Suter deals aren’t cap-circumventing – i.e. they’re deals you could imagine teams making in good faith, that pay reasonable annual salaries relating to the player’s probable production at that age.

        • gorillagogo

          The cynic in me thinks the bidding for Parise and Suter got so high because owners were expecting to use the lockout to get out from under long term deals. Minnesota should have to honor the deals they gave to these guys in their entirety.

        • Scott Lemieux

          But 1)even bad faith long-term deals carry substantial risk for the club, and 2)as you say some long-term deals are, in fact, good for the team. So what’s the problem?

    • Murc

      If there is something wrong with long-term contracts, why do GMs keep making them?

      … seriously?

      They keep making them because if they DON’T, some other GM will offer that sweet, sweet long-term contract deal to poach a powerful player. You think GMs don’t know that long-term contracts for players who will be past their prime when they end are bad deals?

      They know damn well. But they’re caught up against other teams who are willing to lay out the coin, so they have to as well.

      Which is the way it should be. GMs often make bad decisions about who is and isn’t worth locking in (handing out long-term contracts to guys already past their peak, for example) but I’m 100% in favor of players soaking their franchises for every dollar they can, because that’s precisely what the owners are doing.

      • cheap wino

        Like most plutocrats, they praise the miracle of the free market then work their asses off to eliminate or circumvent it.

        • janastas359

          I forget who said it but in the Simmons thread someone summed it up well: Privatize benefits, Socialize risks.

  • ZxZ

    Think there was an article 6 months or so ago about how Bonilla had structured his finances so he would be set for life. May have been related to his job “counseling” today’s players

  • Corey

    Thanks for making a thread on this, Scott (was going to beg for it in another thread if you hadn’t). I was honestly shocked by the events of last night. I mean, I expected the whole owner-player direct meeting was a bullshit ruse by Bettman, but I hadn’t realized exactly how bullshit it was.

    It certainly sounds as though the entire crux of the disagreement was essentially around maximum contract lengths, as the two sides had reached agreement on pensions and “make whole”. Now, apparently, the entire deal (including the previously agreed-upon elements) is off the table and negotiations have to start back from square one.

    It’s a breathless display of bad faith, and even though the reactions have been pretty uniformly pro-player, I’m still really surprised that this isn’t quite seen for what it is.

    • Murc

      Now, apparently, the entire deal (including the previously agreed-upon elements) is off the table and negotiations have to start back from square one.

      To be fair, the first rule of negotiations is ‘nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.’

      • Richard

        Also taking everything off the table is a common negotiating tactic. Usually doesn’t mean anything

  • rw970

    This bizarre insistance on contract limitations makes me think that all these negotiations are being secretly controlled by Brian Burke, who having concluded that because of his self-imposed Burkean-restrictions can’t compete with other GMs despite having more money at his disposal than all of them combined, has set out not to change his system, or think, hey, maybe I’m doing this wrong if I can’t take the league’s highest payroll to the playoffs, like, once, but to force everyone to become like him. I guess the money that was supposed to go to scouting went to his brain-control device?

    • Stan Gable

      I really don’t understand what can possibly be going on with the owners. I get that it’s an ideological crusade for Jacobs and some of the others but when push comes to shove, the lockout is probably going to kill off some of the sun belt franchises and has to be fairly damaging for some of major market teams like the Leafs.

      The only ways that it makes sense to me is if almost all of them are either on board with the crusade or don’t give enough of a crap to get in Jacobs’ way.

  • rw970

    Here’s a good article theorizing why the rank and file of the union want to keep contract length unlimited.


  • scott

    In trivial, non-hockey related news, a prominent “progressive” pundit, Jon Chait, endorses raising the Medicare eligibility age. Gotta love our opinion leaders, man, they relieve the Republicans of the onerous burden of granny starving by doing it for them!


    • cpinva

      mr. chait, who himself will never have to worry about being financially secure in his “golden years”, is perfectly willing (like many others in his position) to fuck over those who don’t share in his good fortune. fuck them, and the pitiful excuses for horses they rode in on.

      i, like most people, did not share in the financial excesses that led to the “great depression II: the return of herbert hoover!”, so i feel absolutely zero need to share in the “sacrifices” that need to be made, to pull the economy and budget out of it. those sacrifices should be borne, 100%, by those responsible for the catastrophe. if that means taking all their property, and selling it at auction, to raise funds for the government, so be it. at least they got to enjoy it, i didn’t. their families can be sold into slavery, for all i care, although ann romney would be kind of useless, even as a house slave.

      • snarkout

        I think Chait is wrong, but he says that Pelosi et al. are right on the policy merits; he’s not on Team Grannystarver, he’s saying that raising the Medicare age might be an acceptable bargaining chip. (Again, he’s wrong, but it’s a different order of wrong than the usual Catfood Commission fluffer.)

  • Kurzleg

    I don’t follow the NHL much. Has Tim Thomas weighed in on the lockout and negotiations? He might be the one anti-player voice amongst the players.

    • Richard

      Silent as far as I know

    • spencer

      Fuck that guy.

  • Stan Gable

    So according to the Globe and Mail, Molson is going to seek compensation from the NHL for their losses due to the lockout:

    Mr. Swinburn said that once the lockout ends, Molson Coors will seek financial compensation from the league over the negative impact that a lack of games has had on the hockey league sponsor.

    I get that Molson corporate maybe isn’t the same entity as Molson, the owners of the Canadians but jeebus, if the lockout is hurting your business, then maybe you should end the lockout?

    • Hogan

      Maybe that’s what they’re trying to do.

      • Stan Gable

        I guess maybe the interview is their way of putting pressure on the other owners, but it seems kind of crazy that the marquee franchises can’t put a stop to this.

        I mean at this point, isn’t it more or less public knowledge know that Montreal, Toronto and NYR want a deal done yesterday?

        • Murc

          it seems kind of crazy that the marquee franchises can’t put a stop to this.

          How, though?

          I mean, isn’t that question a bit like ‘it seems kind of crazy that fifty other Democratic Senators can’t keep Ben Nelson in line’?

          What, precisely, could the marquee franchises do to force the other owners into doing what they want?

          • Stan Gable

            They could choose to be equally dickish about how revenue streams are negotiated & distributed in the future, couldn’t they? Is there a Maple Leafs equivalent to YES for example?

        • BobS

          You could probably put Mike Ilitch in that camp- I think he might be one of the rare nice people among pro sports team owners. He grew up in Detroit and has always been one of the biggest fans of his teams and players.
          A friend of mine crossed paths with him a couple weeks ago, long enough to engage him in conversation. Ilitch expressed his optimism that this would be settled soon (then), but my friend said it was easy to see how sad he was over the situation.

          • snarkout

            And a former minor-leaguer in the Tigers organization (I think he washed out in A-ball.) I’ve wondered if that experience changes his approach as an owner.

          • witless chum

            He might well be a nice dude, but he’s in the midst of bilking the city of Detroit for funding for his replacement for the Joe, which doesn’t need replacing.

            • BobS

              Yeah, that sucks. One trait he does share with virtually every other owner is that he receives a hell of a lot more welfare than your average resident of Detroit.

    • bph

      The structure of NHL is insane. Everything takes a supermajority to get approved, so Bettman knows exactly who he needs to make happy to get something approved and works to negotiate to those owners.

  • rea

    “Worst Lickspittle of Tax-Subsidized Plutocrats of the Day”?

    I’m sorry, but Betteman finishes second to Rick Snyder, by any objective standard.

  • Sherm

    So, the employees have to pay the price for management’s mistakes. Seems consistent with all other big businesses these days.

  • efgoldman

    I am starting to suspect, just a smidge, that the Bruins won the cup a couple years ago by accident and luck, and that it was the worst thing that could happen for Jacobs. Over the decades his family has owned th team, he has never given a shit about winning except as it effects the sales of beer and pizza. The family were concessionaires long before they were team owners. That he also owns the major arena venue in Boston, has the Celtics locked into a fairly onerous lease, and is really the only indoor venue in the area that can support major shows, doesn’t hurt.

  • Rhino

    Just don’t care anymore. They almost lost me the last time, this time? My life is filled now with things other than staying home and watching hockey games. Bye bye NHL.

  • DJA

    I’m beginning to seriously wonder if there might not be an opening to launch a rival hockey league, ideally one not run by folks who think cutting off your nose to spite your face is a good idea.

    • efgoldman

      Theoretically not a bad idea, but one would have to look at how many team owners also control the arenas. Boston and New York I know for sure.

    • wengler

      The Wolves are pretty popular here when the Hawks aren’t playing. The distribution of teams in the AHL isn’t going to make them rivals though, unless Abbotsford can suddenly become a major market.

      • DJA

        It probably couldn’t be just an AHL expansion, it would have to be a brand-new league, including teams in major markets competing directly with NHL franchises — maybe just Canadian cities at first, but a franchise in Toronto would be an especially delightful “fuck you” to the NHL.

    • Stan Gable

      The Maple Leafs and Canadiens holding companies also own the buildings so competing league probably isn’t going to be viable.

      Bigger issue for the NHL that I see is if there’s an increase in Euro players who elect to stay home.

      • DJA

        On Twitter people are floating the idea of a more globalized, soccer-like model.

        • The Islanders and Blue Jackets are cases for relegation.

  • Richard

    It’s all posturing. They’ll agree on six years next week

  • Richard

    The idea of a rival league is silly. There’s no market or money for it plus many of the teams, like the Kings , own the arena. There is absolutely no market for another hockey team or league in California.

    • witless chum

      There might be in Toronto, though. Another league would have to at least start out by sticking to the hockey heartland. I’ve often wondered if Michigan could support another NHL team in G.R.

      • DJA

        Most of the cities that could conceivably support a hockey team from a rival league have more than one arena capable of hosting professional hockey. (Usually the other options are old and in dire need of renovation, but it’s a start.)

        In Canada, you could start with rival teams in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto, plus teams in Hamilton, Quebec City, Halifax, and Saskatoon.

        I mean, obviously there are a million reasons why this won’t actually happen, but it’s fun to think about, especially with there being no actual games to watch.

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