This season's 'iron man' is … Prince Fielder

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Prince Fielder receives a lot of criticism for his weight and the presumed lack of conditioning that comes with it, but as Adam McCalvy of notes he’s the only player in baseball to appear in all of his team’s games this season.
Fielder has started at first base and batted cleanup in each of the Brewers’ first 153 games and plans to maintain his perfect attendance down the stretch:

Fielder recalled coming out of a Little League game when he was 12 years old, after fouling a pitch off his foot. “I came out of the game, and I remember someone being [upset]. They were like, ‘I think you’re all right,'” Fielder said. “That made me feel bad. I didn’t like the way I felt. So from then on, I wanted to play every day.

“I just felt soft. I didn’t like it. If I’m hurt, it’s one thing, but if I can to play, I want to play.” Fielder said he has fought through aches and pains this season, but never came close to asking for a day off. Manager Ken Macha never considered giving him one. “Not even close,” Macha said.

Interestingly, at least four players have appeared in 162 games every year since the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 seasons, with a total of 76 different 162-game players during that 14-year stretch. And now suddenly Fielder is the only guy with a shot to do it this season. Coincidence or are teams more focused on giving their stars at least an occasional day off?
Fielder, incidentally, is hitting .297/.408/.595 with 42 homers, 34 doubles, 101 walks, and a league-leading 132 RBIs, including .282/.386/.600 with six homers and seven doubles in 23 games this month.

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.