And That Happened: Wednesday's scores and highlights

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Brewers 3, Cubs 2: Prince Fielder pads his stats with a homer
and a couple of RBI. It’s easy to forget in all of the Cub-drama that
Chicago is actually a few games ahead of Milwaukee in the standings.

Astros 3, Cardinals 0: And look! The Cubs are technically still
alive! If St. Louis just loses its last nine while the Cubs win their
remaining. . . er, well, let’s just never mind, shall we? According to
the game story, St. Louis “had 25 cases of champagne waiting in the
clubhouse, but the bottles will remain corked for at least another
day.” Twenty-five cases? They got, what, 38 guys on the roster
right now? Add in eight or ten coaches and trainers and such. This is a
road game, so figure that front office staff is light: the GM, an
assistant or two, random traveling secretary types. Being generous,
we’ll call it a complement of 60 people with the team, and then some
random media guys who don’t care if partying up with the team hurts
their credibility. Tops — absolute tops — you have 75 people that
could even hope to be shooting champagne over one another, though many
of these people would never touch a bottle in such a situation because,
really, it’s the players’ thing. Twenty-five cases of champagne makes
for 300 bottles. I love drinkin’ as much as the next guy, but ain’t
that overdoing it a bit? And that’s before the beer cans you always see
guys throwing into the celebratory shower. Oh, one more thing: The Cubs
play tomorrow and the Cardinals don’t, which means that they can clinch
on their day off if Chicago loses to San Francisco. What the hell
happens to those 300 bottles if they clinch while on a day off? Do soup
kitchens take booze?

Giants 5, Diamondbacks 2: Bruce Bochy: “We’re still breathing. There’s still hope.” Four games back.

Braves 5, Mets 2: The ghost ship that is the New York Mets
continues to drift aimlessly around the National League, its crew
having all but abandoned it, a lamentable calm having descended over
its decks. The Braves, like the Giants, sit four back of Colorado.

Tigers 11, Indians 3: Four RBI and two homers for Carlos Guillen keep the Tigers two and a half up on Minnesota.

Twins 8, White Sox 6: The lights went out in U.S. Cellular Field.
What’s worse, they hung my brother before I could say that the tracks
he saw while on his way to Andy’s house and back that night were mine.

Red Sox 9, Royals 2: Josh Beckett gave up 12 hits, but they weren’t as big as the ones Luke Hochevar gave up.

Marlins 7, Phillies 6: Brad Lidge in the playoffs is gonna be
something special to behold. Last year’s Mr. Automatic blows yet
another save, this one a one-run lead in the ninth. He was apparently
getting the calls too, because Fredi Gonzalez was ejected with two out
in the ninth for arguing balls and strikes. Lidge wouldn’t record
another one, however, and his legend continues to grow.

Rays 5, Mariners 4: B.J. Upton had three RBI and made a spiffy
catch to rob Bill Hall of extra bases to end the game. Game story:
“Seattle 1B Russell Branyan (back) took 35 swings off a tee.” Despite
this, his downswing is too steep, his swing path is too outside-in, and
his clubface is open. Mariners’ hitting coach Alan Cockrell is watching
him closely, but he’s still cutting across the ball and pull-slicing it.

Reds 12, Pirates 2: Homer Bailey is 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA over the
past month. It will be fun to see how many fantasy players key on this
strong finish to the season, declaring Bailey a sleeper, without
realizing that three of those wins came against Pittsburgh. And now,
Deep Thoughts, with your host, John Russell: “Obviously, when you don’t
score runs, it doesn’t look like you’re playing very good. That’s one
of the things that always looks bad — you don’t score and the other
team’s scoring a lot, then they look a whole lot better than you do.”

Blue Jays 7, Orioles 3: Thirty years ago this fall, the Orioles played the Pirates in the World Series. May as well have been a billion years ago.

Nationals 5, Dodgers 4: Andre Ethier dropped a fly ball in the
ninth, allowing the Nats to win the game. If they had won this one,
they would have clinched the west because . . .

Padres 6, Rockies 3: The Rockies lost in San Diego, who were powered by Will Venebale’s four RBI.

Yankees 3, Angels 2: The Angels struck out 15 times in this one.
Ian Kennedy loaded the bases and then slithered out of the jam in his
first work in over a year. The Yankees took two of three from their
potential ALCS foe.

Rangers 9, Athletics 8: Of all of the stuff that could be
mentioned about this game, this bit — the last thing in the little
notes section of the game story — is the most interesting: “The
Rangers stole four bases and moved past the Angels into second in the
AL with 143 steals.” I’ve said it many times this year, but this is not
your older brother’s Rangers team.

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 million 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.