Chicago Cubs’ Attempt to Avoid Obamacare Leads Giants to Gain First Major League Baseball Protest Victory in 28 Years

Monday, August 25, 2014
Cubs' grounds crew struggling with tarp (photo: Matt Marton)

It isn’t often that the baseball pennant race comes in contact with national healthcare policy. But that’s exactly what happened in a game last week between the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants. The controversy led to the first successful protest of the outcome of a Major League Baseball game in 28 years.


The Cubs were leading the Giants 2-0 after 4½ innings Tuesday in Chicago when it began to rain hard. The grounds crew for the Cubs struggled to cover the field with a tarp and the infield became soaked. Finally, the umpires called the game after a 4-hour, 34-minute delay, giving the Cubs a victory. But the Giants, who are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, protested that result, saying Chicago’s grounds crew had botched the rollout of the tarp. Major League Baseball agreed, and the game was picked up where it had left off on Thursday, when the Giants eventually lost anyway, 2-1.


But people began to ask why the Cubs’ groundskeepers had had so much trouble rolling out the tarp. Summertime storms are hardly uncommon in Chicago and the Wrigley Field crew had always been well-regarded.


Ah, but that was before another rollout, that of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which requires that those working more than 130 hours a month be offered healthcare benefits. The Ricketts family, whose net worth is more than $1 billion, owns the Cubs, the most profitable team in baseball. Not profitable enough for the Ricketts, apparently. The family doesn’t want to pay for healthcare for all its employees, so they cut the hours of stadium personnel, including grounds crew, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. On the day of the rainout, upper management had sent home 10 members of the grounds crew without consulting the on-field supervisors. Then the skies opened up.


Other major league executives, who wouldn’t go on the record, told the Sun-Times that they hadn’t changed their operations because of the ACA. “You get what you pay for,” one said.

The Cubs claimed that their efforts to deny their employees healthcare were unrelated to the tarp fiasco. “We’re no different than any organization trying to gain efficiencies. However, our efforts to manage costs had nothing to do with the episode on Tuesday night.” Cubs spokesman Julian Green said, according to Talking Points Memo.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Cubs Cut Grounds Crew’s Hours To Avoid Paying Health Benefits — Sources (by Gordon Wittenmyer, Chicago Sun-Times)

Cubs Cut Workers’ Hours To Avoid O-Care Mandate, Then Disaster Struck (by Dylan Scott, Talking Points Memo)

Giants Protest Rain-Shortened Loss, Win First Appeal In MLB Since 1986 (by Sean Newell, Deadspin)


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