Bud Selig is "delighted" at McGwire's return; the feds? Not so much

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Bud Selig’s comments following the announcement of Mark McGwire’s return:

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, a fan of Mark McGwire’s when the latter broke the major-league home run record and thereafter, too, said Monday he “was delighted that Mark’s coming back to the game,” as the Cardinals’ new hitting coach.

Speaking by telephone from his office in Milwaukee, Selig said, “I give (manager) Tony La Russa a lot of credit and (chairman) Bill DeWitt a lot of credit for making this happen. I was — and am — very supportive of their decision. I wish everybody well.  When Mark was there, I had a lot of affection and admiration for him . . . I have no misgivings about this at all. Mark McGwire is a very, very fine man and the Cardinals are to be applauded.”

So everyone’s happy? Not so much. Here’s retired FBI agent Greg Stekskal, who investigated McGwire:

Monday, Stejskal questioned the return to the game of a player who refused to acknowledge involvement with steroids.

“It’s basically rewarding a guy who hasn’t stood up and taken a stand against this stuff,” Stejskal said. “There’s been no mea culpa, and instead he became a recluse. It reminds me of a passage from Proverbs: ‘The wicked flee where no man pursueth.'”

As I said yesterday, I’m somewhere in the middle. Certainly not as effusive as Selig is — it’s gonna be awkward for a while and we can’t pretend that what happened didn’t happen — but I certainly don’t believe that McGwire was “wicked” or needs to wear a scarlet “S” on his cloak.

Who’s really right? I’m not sure, but like I’ve always said: if you find yourself disagreeing with both Bud Selig and a federal agent who spent taxpayer dollars investigating the personal drug use of professional athletes, you’re probably doing pretty well in life.

Congress to pass bill depriving minor leaguers of minimum wage rights

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We saw this coming and wrote about it last weekend, but now it’s official: the new spending bill from Congress contains a gift for Major League and Minor League Baseball in the form of a provision classifying minor leaguers as seasonal workers, exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Practically speaking, this means that minor leaguers are not required to be paid minimum wage or have other basic protections to which even part-timers at fast food restaurants are entitled.

The relevant provision — buried on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page spending bill, which will get almost zero time to be read and processed by most people before it’s ultimately passed signed into law by tomorrow — is farcically entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” It exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 people who fit this description:

[A]ny employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not on spring training or the off season) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage under section 6(a) for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.

It may be news to you that the multi-billion baseball industry, run by a few dozen billionaires and billion-dollar businesses, needed to be “saved” in such a fashion. Congress knew though. Maybe because Congress is so benevolent and wise. Or, maybe, because baseball’s lobbying operation spent millions plying Congressmen for this special law to keep it from having to pay workers a living wage.

Based on the response to our past writings on this topic, I suspect most of you won’t care all that much. You either believe that all or most of these players are wealthy via six or seven-figure signing bonuses or will make serious money in the big leagues one day. That’s not true, but many of you believe it. Or, alternatively, maybe you view minor leaguers as a bunch of kids farting around with a hobby until they start their “real life,” so why should they make a living wage?

To the extent you believe that and to the extent this does not bother you, I’d simply suggest that you ask how much money minor league and major league organizations make via the playing and marketing of minor league baseball and how much Major League Baseball benefits by having its training and development system costs legislatively controlled. Ask yourself whether the company that gave you your first entry-level position would’ve loved to have a law allowing it to pay you less than minimum wage and how you would’ve felt if that was the case in your situation. Ask yourself if anyone else would have cared all that much about the job you had when you were 22 and whether that would make a difference to you as you made the equivalent of $5 or $6 an hour for a multi-billion dollar business.

Maybe that still doesn’t sway you. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a greedy cash grab by baseball which now, thanks to specially-requested government intervention, institutionalizes and legitimizes the exploitation of young men with very little power and even less money. That you may be OK with it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s very, very wrong.