Burt Prelutsky

Once Congress began holding hearings, Major League Baseball could no longer ignore the obvious facts. Even now, some of us consider the punishments for being found out to be the equivalent of wrist slaps. While I know some fans will regard Manny Ramirez’s 50-day suspension as a big deal, it will cost him less than eight million dollars in lost wages. Considering the fact that being a cheater has helped him earn at least 10 times that much over the past few years in Boston and L.A., it’s not a major loss to the Ramirez family. But, worse yet, thanks to the power of the Player’s Union, the 105 major leaguers who tested positive over the past couple of years might as well be in the Federal Witness Program, except they didn’t have to change their names and go into hiding after testifying against the Mob.

As a result of the Union’s stonewalling, all 750 players in the big leagues remain under a cloud of suspicion even though, theoretically, 86% of them are innocent.

Still, as bad as that is, I recently discovered that the L.A. Unified School District pays 160 teachers to stay home. These are teachers who are being “housed,” as they call it, while their fitness to teach is under review. These people have been accused of theft, drug possession and the sexual harassment of teenage students.

In some cases, the reviews, for some reason, take years to complete. In the meantime, even now when budget cuts are forcing layoffs of other teachers, the cost of keeping this deadwood on salary runs L.A.’s taxpayers $10 million-a-year. That doesn’t include the legal costs run up by the city’s having to fight the Union to get these 160 oafs out of education and into a different line; preferably, the one at the unemployment office.

But I’m afraid that whether we’re talking about baseball, public schools or the UAW, until the arrogant unions show that their concerns aren’t entirely selfish and short-sighted, most people will continue to regard them, at best, as necessary evils or, at worst, as unnecessary evils.