Happy (Real) Birthday, Miggy Tejada
Baseball fans, a legion in which I hold lifetime membership, are by now aware the Houston Astros' star Miguel Tejada (formerly of the Baltimore Orioles, and, thus, someone I saw play frequently against the Red Sox) lied about his age when he signed his first professional contract. He shaved off a couple of years, making himself 17 when he was really 19.
Supposedly, this is not exactly a rarity for players coming form poor places like the Dominican Republic. (Baseball fans, of course, know just how important the DR has become as a virtual farm team for Major League Baseball.) There have been off-and-on rumors that the Red Sox slugger - and Dominican - David "Big Papi" Ortiz is not as young as he says he is. I haven't heard this rumor yet this season, but I suspect that I will, especially if Papi remains in the sluggish, rather than sluggerish, mode he has started the season with - which, thankfully, appears not to be the case.
Tejada "revealed" the discrepancy after he was confronted with his birth certificate during an interview with ESPN. The reporter sprang the surprise paper on him, and Miggy walked out. (Who can blame him?)
Knowing he would be outed once the interview ran, Tejada fessed up to Astros' management, and they, apparently, could not care less. Their GM was, in fact, quoted in the San Jose Mercury News as saying "... the fact of the matter is he's playing like he was 25." (There are also rumors swirling around about Tejada and steroids. Hmmmmmm.)
33 years old. 31 years old.
From where I sit, peering at the computer screen over the tops of my bifocals, it doesn't seem to matter much one way or the other, but baseball, of course, is a different sort of business than I'm in.
On one level, the thought of age discrimination among athletes is more than a little laughable. But there is the case of those lllooonnnggg contracts that athletes whose careers are cresting look for. So before they sign someone up for a long term, big bucks contract most teams have run all sorts of models having to do with aging athletes. Maybe you'd sign a 33 year old for a five year contract. Maybe you wouldn't.
Of course, few professions are so demonstrably results based. Everybody in the world - starting with those who make the contract decisions for the teams - can find out pretty easily how a player throws, catches, hits, runs, strikes out, homers, knocks in a run, steals third, gets thrown out trying for home, etc.
How does this guy perform in a late-inning, bases-loaded situation against left-handed pitcher?
What's this pitcher capable of in a late season, afternoon game in this ball park?
Do teams this guy plays for do better with him or without him?
Click. Click. Click. Here you go.
Talk about information at your finger tips.
And talk about a way to evaluate performance that has nothing to do with sucking up to the boss, stepping all over his colleagues, stealing other folks' ideas (rather than bases), fluffing up your résumé with real fake accomplishments. Hard to do much of that when your stats are on the back of a baseball card.
Naturally, it's not all statistics in sports. There is certainly the matter of chemistry, and there are certainly cases where players - no matter how talented - are let go because they tick off management, don't get along with their teammates, etc. (Today's example is the Toronto Blue Jays giving Frank Thomas a too-da-loo.) But professional athletics is, by and large, numbers driven.
The Tejada age- adjustment brouhaha does get me thinking about the age discrimination - real or perceived - that Boomers face in the workplace.
On the one hand, we're hearing that the demographic dip means that us Boomers will remain in demand for as long as we want to work.
On the other, we're advised to drop degree dates from our résumés so that no one does that little bit of arithmetic and figure out you're over 50. I have friends with very strong résumés who don't get called in for an interview even when, on paper, they're a perfect fit for the job. Age discrimination? Who knows. But I did tell a friend that he may want to change the statement "over thirty years experience" to "over twenty years experience." Sure, when he shows up they'll be able to figure out he's on the plus side of 50, but at least he'll be there in person to make his case.
Personally, I don't think I've run into any age discrimination - yet - but that may be because I'm not looking for a full-time job, and most of my project work comes through my network. Sure, that network has a pretty good idea how old I am, but they also have a pretty good idea what I can do which, professionally, hasn't yet atrophied. As long as there's demand for folks who can think clearly and write a coherent paragraph, I'm guessing I'll have work.
But, in truth, I don't know.
If the economy gets bad enough, there may be more pressure to give the work to those who have young families and long mortgages, rather than to Baby Boomers who want and/or need to work.
Meanwhile, to Miguel Tejada: Happy Real Birthday. You really don't look a day over thirty.