Union's OK with Pirates' spending

The union's take on the Pirates? As Rob Biertempfel writes, it might not be what you think:

The Pirates' Opening Day payroll of $34.9 million is the lowest in the majors, but it did not sound alarm bells at the players' union.

Earlier this month, the Pirates sent the Major League Baseball Players Association an annual statement detailing how the franchise spent its portion of revenue-sharing funds. MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner on Monday gave grudging approval of the Pirates' budget-conscious strategy for rebuilding the team.

"Are we happy with the current state of the Pirates' payroll? Of course we'd like to see it higher," Weiner said at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. "Is it tough to see when they sign a player like Nate McLouth and then trade him? Is it tough to see some of the other things they've done? Sure. But, to date, we have been convinced the Pirates have a plan.

"You guys (in Pittsburgh) have as beautiful a ballpark as there is in the major leagues. You've got a phenomenal fan base and history. (Ownership has) a plan in place, so we'll continue to monitor it. We've been satisfied so far."

With the CBA expiring after the 2011 season, it's encouraging to see the union's head honcho avoiding an easy chance to pile up a couple of points in the newspapers. It should be encouraging for Pirates fans, too, because this essentially tells us the franchise's owners aren't simply lining their pockets. As long as the revenue-sharing and central-fund money is getting plowed back into the franchise -- whether it's major league salaries, signing bonuses, or the construction of academies in Timbuktu -- neither the union nor anyone has much of a case.

Sure, the union would love a stipulation that forces the teams to spend everything on payroll -- the union cares not the tiniest iota about minor leaguers or future professionals -- but that's one concession the players have not yet wrung from the owners (and they never will).

I wasn't planning to lambaste the union. They do a lot of things I don't care for, but then a union's not supposed to care what we think. A union exists for one purpose, and this happens to be one of the best unions that's ever unioned. And I'm heartened by Michael Weiner's public willingness to let the Pirates spend their money on the future.