What They're Saying About Manny and Ortiz

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The news has only been out a couple of hours, but the blogosphere, she already rumbles:

Tom Tango at The Book Blog: Redsox
Nation will defend him, the others who want to fight will villify him,
and even those Redsox fans who are bothered by it will simply hold
their noses as they cling to the dream of a clean ring. The rest of us
who don’t cling to the idea that baseball is a virgin to be protected
at all costs will shake our heads for a second and move on in peace,
while leaving the battlefield to those too holy for us.

It’s About the Money: There’s
a part of me that should really be happy that another player from the
RedSox has been outted, but really, it’s just another gut-punch to
baseball. Sure, there might be some of you (myself included), that
might jump up and say: “See, THAT explains it all!” Except it doesn’t.
Every team was dirty. Some more than others. But to think assume that
your favorite player(s) are clean is just folly.

Bronx Banter: Nothing shocking here.

Over the Monster: If
this is true about Ortiz, it is a real shocker. I’m not surprised about
Manny, but with Ortiz it goes back to everything he was saying. He said
he was clean, he said he never did anything illegal. I think we all
believed him. Of course with his struggles this season, it may have
said, “hey, I’m off the juice,” but how are we supposed to know? If
this is true, this is quite sad.

The Big Lead: Wonder
if Ortiz wishes he could take back this quote from February: “I think
you clean up the game by the testing. I test you, you test positive,
you’re going to be out. Period.” What a fraud. Nobody should be
surprised that Ortiz and Ramirez tested positive.

Rob Neyer: When
Ortiz said players who fail drug tests should be suspended for a whole
season, he actually meant, “Anybody who gets caught now should be
severely punished not for using drugs, but for being stupid enough to
get caught.”

Fire Brand of the American League: In
my experiences watching baseball, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez were
of shady character enough that it was easy enough to see and believe
they had taken steroids illegally and knowingly. I don’t have that
sense about Ortiz. It’s possible he’s crafted an outstanding, fake
public image and he’s not the person we all thought he was, but I’m not
cynical enough for that. I think right now, David Ortiz deserves my not
rushing to judgment. Not based on all these home runs he’s hit for the
Sox, but for what he says and what he stands for.

Bugs & Cranks: I’m
not going to pretend otherwise: I believe this report. Deep down, I
knew this day would probably come. Too many stars on too many teams
were taken down with the Red Sox managing to dodge most of the bullets.
Then when Manny tested positive, I knew it was probably when not if.
But I didn’t want to believe it. I still don’t. Ortiz? On steroids?

Mike Herz, NJ.com: It’s
time people accepted just how pervasive performance enhancing use has
been in the game (going back to amphetamine use starting in the ’60s),
to the point of defining the game over much of the last two decades.
With each new big name that comes out, it becomes harder to chastise,
because it’s more of an indictment of an entire era rather than an
individual. It’s becoming exceedingly clear that juicing was not
isolated to a small group of “cheaters,” but something that was
commonly practiced and accepted throughout baseball as part of the job.

Obviously a ton more out there, but this covers the bases of the
immediate reaction. Sox fans are sad and surprised, Yankees fans are
not surprised, but are withholding the “ha-has!”, and smart people
everywhere are starting to acknowledge that steroids is way too
complicated and pervasive a problem to allow us to live in a fantasy
land in which there are “cheaters” and “clean people.”

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.