Who acted poorly: Glavine, or the Braves?

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As a longtime Braves fan, I was beyond angry when I heard that they had released Tom Glavine yesterday.
As a 14 year-old boy, I watched Glavine’s first start back in 1987, was
with him and the Braves through some dark, early years, rejoiced when
things unexpectedly turned around in 1991, cheered like crazy during
Game Six of the 1995 World Series, and continued to pull for him as his
career transformed from merely great to Hall of Fame worthy. Even if I
didn’t particularly enjoy his move to the Mets, I understood. Even
though I knew he wasn’t the same pitcher he used to be upon his return
to Atlanta last year, I rejoiced. Glavine doesn’t know it, but he and I
have a lot of history together, and history makes up for a lot.

So, yes, I was angry when I heard the news yesterday. Earlier this
spring I wanted Glavine to retire because it sounded like he truly
couldn’t pitch anymore, but his rehab starts sounded like they were
going well. Indeed, he pitched six scoreless innings on Tuesday night.
In light of this, and in light of all Glavine has meant to the
franchise over the past 22 years, I thought the Braves were obligated
to at least give him a chance to pitch. But they didn’t. Which was bad
enough, but it was compounded by what seemed like humiliation in light
of Glavine’s statements the evening before
that he stood ready to pitch. As it seemed motivated by money (Glavine
stood to claim $1 million for making the team) it struck me like a
particularly classless and penny wise-pound foolish way to let a future
Hall of Famer’s career end in Atlanta.

After having had a night to sleep on it, I’m still miffed over it all,
though not quite as miffed as I was yesterday. I will not dispute for a
second that the Braves are better off from a baseball perspective
having Tommy Hanson pitching than Tom Glavine. I will also fully grant
the following, offered by Braves’ GM Frank Wren:

“In low-A ball, the pitching line is not a relevant factor in whether the ‘stuff’ could get major-league hitters out”

I’m no scout and outside of the discussion of his radar readings, I’ve
heard nothing about the specific quality of his rehab starts. Maybe
he’d get shelled if he pitched for Atlanta. I don’t know.

But I do know that the only situation which could have existed to
make this something other than a callous move on the Braves’ part would
the following: Glavine is told that he’s not cutting by Braves
management and is about to be released, and then nonetheless seeks out
a reporter to make that “I’m ready” comment. In such a situation, it’s
Glavine, not the Braves forcing the issue out the way it was forced,
putting the Braves in a no-win situation. Did he do that, or did the
Braves play their cards close to the vest, encouraging him along in
rehab, allowing him to declare himself ready, and then and only then
tell him, no, you’re going to be released?

For those of us who are coming at this with some emotional baggage
as it relates to a team legend — as opposed to thinking about it in
merely analytical terms — that is the most important question.

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

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Mike DeBonis of the Washington Post reports that, according to three congressional officials familiar with current talks, an upcoming spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws. This is an issue we have spent some time covering here. A bill proposed in 2016, H.R. 5580, would have amended language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 which would have made it so minor leaguers wouldn’t be protected under a law that protects hourly workers. There is also an ongoing class action lawsuit over unfair labor prospects.

As DeBonis notes, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is among the representatives backing the measure. The provision specifically concerning minor leaguers didn’t appear in any of the draft spending bills, but DeBonis spoke to officials familiar with the negotiations under the condition of anonymity who said it was under serious consideration by top party leaders.

DeBonis got a comment from Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner. He said, “We’re not saying that [minor league pay] shouldn’t go up. We’re just saying that the formula of minimum wage and overtime is so incalculable. I would hate to think that a prospect is told, ‘You got to go home because you’re out of hours, you can’t have any extra batting practice.’ It’s those kinds of things. It’s not like factory work. It’s not like work where you can punch a time clock and management can project how many hours they’re going to have to pay for.”

O’Conner said as much in an interview back in December. It’s an extremely disingenuous deflection. O’Conner also said, “I don’t think that minor league baseball is a career choice for a player.” This is all about creating legislation that allows Minor League Baseball to keep money at the top, which is great if you’re a team owner or shareholder. If they could get away with it, every owner of every business would pay its employees as little as possible, which is why it’s important to have unions and people keeping an eye on legislation like this that attempts to strip laborers of their rights in the dead of night.

Minor league players need to unionize. Or, better yet, the MLBPA should open their doors to include minor leaguers and fight for them just as they would a player who has reached the majors. Minor leaguers should be paid a salary with which they do not have to worry about things like rent, electricity, food, and transportation. They should be provided healthcare and a retirement fund. And if anyone tries to tell you it’s not affordable, MLB eclipsed $10 billion in revenues last year. There’s plenty to go around.

The owners are banking on this legislation passing and labor still coming in excess due to young men holding onto the dream of making the major leagues. According to CNN, “far less than 10 percent of minor league players ever get the chance to make it to the major leagues.” Some of these players have forgone college to work in baseball. They arrive at the park in the morning and leave late at night, putting in far more than your standard eight-hour work day. Since their bodies are their vehicle for success, they have to exercise regularly and vigorously off the field while maintaining a healthy diet. (And teams are still reluctant to invest even the smallest amount of money to ensure their young players eat well.) Minor leaguers make tremendous sacrifices to pursue their dream and now Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying Congress to legalize taking further advantage of them.