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Athletes Have Responsibility to Their Employer

By Mike Silva ~ March 29th, 2012. Filed under: New York Mets, New York Yankees.

Joba Chamberlain is always a polarizing topic, but the reaction to breaking his ankle on a trampoline has been interesting. There really is no in-between, as some absolve Chamberlain since he was “playing with his son,” while others believe this is another demonstration of his immaturity and recklessness

I understand the counterpoint. Spending time with one’s family should be more important than throwing a baseball. In a 24/7/365 society that has blurred the lines between good work ethic and obsession, there is nothing wrong with a ballplayer being a regular person.

The difference is that athletes can’t perform and, more importantly, earn their paycheck (average salary is $3 million dollars in MLB) if they are physically impaired. Many of us can’t comprehend that concept, as most broken bones or tendentious won’t keep us out of work very long, if at all, and very few injuries will derail our careers. Of course, there are exceptions to this (i.e. cops, firemen, first responders), but you get the point.

Athletes have to make decisions almost as if they are an insurance company. Every physical activity comes with a consequence, one that could lose them or their employer millions of dollars. There are many things that athletes can’t do, even if it’s with their family. Most contracts ban flight lessons or organized sports. Teams will not hesistate to void a contract (ask Aaron Boone) if there is a violation.

Most activities fall into a grey area. Throwing a football and blowing out your elbow during a Thanksgiving family game may not void a contract, but comes with consequences. For a fringe big leaguer it could be the difference between earning a paycheck and having no income that year. For a player on a guaranteed contract it has less consequence, as it’s the team that could pay millions of dollars in salary and medical fees until he is healthy.

This is why Chamberlain’s decision to jump on a trampoline is so reckless. The place the injury happened is an arcade-type facility where there are tons of other activities where the risk of injury is minimal. This is not about singling out Chamberlain; other athletes have injured themselves doing risky activities. Jeff Kent and Ron Gant injured themselves on a motorcycle. In the case of Gant he missed the entire 1994 season, but the Braves were still were obligated to pay him about $5.5 million dollars.

This doesn’t mean that every risky activity leads to tragedy. R.A. Dickey climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for charity, knowing there were substantial physical and health risks. Despite the fact this activity was for an altruistic cause, the Mets still reminded Dickey they were in their right to void his 2-year/$7.8 million dollar deal. Recently, it was also revealed that Dickey’s teammate, Mike Pelfrey, hurt his foot last year when he broke into a high school football field to prove that he could kick a field goal. Pelfrey’s foot was so sore he had trouble driving immediately after. Imagine if kicking that field goal broke his foot or caused him to alter his delivery in a way that he hurt his arm or elbow. The Mets would only have to pay Pelf $3.9 million to rehab him. No big deal, right?

The point is none of those activities are any different than Chamberlain. This idea that he is “absolved” because he did it with his son is patently ridiculous. Chamberlain probably isn’t sophisticated enough to understand guaranteed vs. non-guaranteed contracts, but I do wonder if he would have been quite as reckless if he didn’t already have $3-4 million dollars in the bank to date. Does he even realize that his contract isn’t guaranteed? The Yankees haven’t discussed the ramifications this injury has on Joba’s contract, but would you blame them if they charged him the medical fees since this happened in a non-baseball activity? Not sure if they could do it, but Joba should be thankful they haven’t released him so they could save about a million dollars.

No athlete needs to answer to or apologize for their actions, regardless of how it happens. It’s your prerogative to ski, parasail, jump on a trampoline or chase mountain lions. Doubly so if none of those activities are in violation of a contract. They do need to answer to the team, their employer, that pays them a significant amount of money to keep themselves in shape and healthy. They need to answer to their teammates who make sacrifices, including some that impact their family, to perform.

Kevin Kernan points out that Chamberlain talked at his press conference about letting his teammates down with this injury. He pointed out that Joba won’t walk over the Yankees NY logo on the locker room carpet because of the level of respect he has for the brand. I think Chamberlain talks a good game, but rarely follows through with it.

He respects his teammates so much, yet has come to camp more than once out of shape and unprepared to compete. He respects the Yankees brand so much that he elected to drink and drive and then mock Yogi Berra to the cops in an embarrassing video that went viral. He couldn’t even be honest with the media about the severity of his injury. You listen to Joba and it sounds like this is a 15-day DL stint. Listen to Brian Cashman and you understand this is season ending and a long road back. Do I need to ask whose version is reality? I bet the Yankees wouldn’t mind Joba walking over the NY logo if it kept him off a trampoline.

There are thousands of minor leaguers that are making about $1,200 a month that would kill for Joba’s arm and opportunity. They wouldn’t just talk a good game, but actually follow through and walk it. I bet they would find a way to respect their employer by keeping themselves safe and still “be a father.” Better yet, if Joba Chamberlain were 36 and named Luis Ayala, would the Yankees be so understanding and pay out the salary? His age and potential still, as it always has, carry him past his own recklessness.

An adult knows how to balance the two. More than one writer has pointed out that Joba takes pride in being a kid. I wonder how much fun that persona will be in the near future when he is fighting for a roster spot. How will it be when he pitches in Triple-A, like every other has-been, for a fraction of the money he earns today. Worse yet, how does independent baseball sound? Don’t think it will happen? There are tons of players with great arms playing unaffiliated ball throughout the country. You go from 26 to 30 in a blink of an eye.

That 2 turning to a 3 changes an awful lot in professional sports.

Acting like a kid means not understanding how to balance fun and fatherhood with the responsibilities that come with being a professional. Being an adult requires you to know how to accomplish that and suffer consequences, if you fail.

We all know where Joba Chamberlain stands. The Yankees do, as well. The $1.6 million dollar salary they pay the 1st and 15th of the month is a reminder.

Unfortunately, there is a portion of the public that doesn’t seem to understand, or care.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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8 Responses to Athletes Have Responsibility to Their Employer

  1. Steve H

    This was terrible.

  2. Raul

    I think you’re being ridiculous.
    Joba Chamberlain made a foolish decision.

    That’s it.

    This idea that you have to be conscious of every facet of your life and think about how it relates to your employer says a lot about the culture of this country.

    Joba earns millions of dollars? So what?
    Why is that relevant?

    Because Joba makes 2 or 3 million dollars, he has to consider and consult everything with his employer?

    Maybe Curt Flood should have shut up about the Reserve Clause also, because he was so well-paid too.

    It’s really sad how much people are accepting intrusion into their personal lives.

    Every athlete is paid to perform on the field. Period. What he does outside the lines is his personal business — even if it can impact what he does on the field.

    The way this is going, you won’t be able to have a beer at home, because you might be a bit hung over at 9am the next day.

  3. tnt

    i dont understand ppl. he is rehabbing a injury and he goes in side a risky area.i bet if steinbremmer was alive and has all his marbles intact,he would be trying a way to void out his contract(and who would blame him) the yankees are where he is employed,thats why he has to “consider and consult” with the ppl who pay him..jeff kent got caught in a lie with his injury and if i remember they were trying to get out of paying him.

  4. Raul

    It’s Steinbrenner.

    And it doesn’t matter that it’s the Yankees.
    The larger issue here is that your salary nor your employer should have any impact on your personal life.

    If your boss was going to pay you 50 million dollars a year, but you had to get clearance for all your meals, would you do it? Of course not.

    It’s a control issue.

  5. tnt

    in a way you have to get clearance for things other then food,to make sure its not on the banned/hgh/steroid list..see j.c. romero…oops didnt notice i wrote “bremmer”

  6. tnt

    raul, if your job requires you to get drug tested at anytime you are not going to do drugs unless you are a total schmuck.joba’s job requires him to throw a ball and he was currently rehabbing his throwing arm.you just simply do not do anything that puts your job in jeopardy,no matter what business you do,be it cop,athlete,porn star,etc

  7. Lisa

    Raul, as Mike previously noted, MLB teams already have banned players from engaging in certain activities and behaviors. This isn’t new.

  8. Raul


    And I believe Drug Testing for jobs is invasion of privacy also.
    It does nothing to curtail drug use and frankly, is none of your employer’s business.


    It’s not about anything being new. I think it’s bogus and disagree with it.

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