The replacement players still not making the game

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High Heat.jpgI don’t play any baseball video games anymore, but there was a time when I played them pretty obsessively. I was particularly fond of High Heat Baseball 199. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the closer for my Braves — Kerry Ligtenberg — wasn’t on it. It was some guy named “Terry Lyte.”  And who was this “Rob Mayday” in the A’s bullpen? Kotaku provided the background in an interesting post over the weekend:

Fifteen years ago, in the infancy of console sports simulations, 38 baseball players made a choice that would ensure they would never appear in a video game. Only five of them remain in the major leagues.

They crossed a picket line, an act of war to organized labor, by signing replacement player contracts with Major League clubs as the infamous 1994 players’ strike dragged into the spring of 1995. Just five of them logged major league service in 2009 and they’re all 38 years old or older. But the continued absence of their names in games is one of the last persistent vestiges of the baseball strike of 1994 and 1995.

The five remaining are Brendan Donnelly, Matt Herges, Ron Mahay — ah, that’s Rob Mayday! — Jamie Walker and Kevin Millar.  There used to be many more of course, and all of them went or still go by aliases on MLBPA-licensed games because they’re not members of the union, and they can never be members of the union because of their failed attempt at strike breaking.

I’m less interested in how this impacts video games than I am in what this means for union and labor issues, but the Kotaku posts covers most the bases in terms of the ethics of all of that too. The biggest question: should the union have let it go a long time ago and admitted the replacement players, or should they remain blackballed in order to set a firm precedent in the interests of union solidarity?

I don’t know that there is a right and a wrong answer here.  On the one hand I was brought up sympathetic to the union cause, so I understand the dynamics in play on the side of labor, and they apply even in a high-salaried shop like the MLBPA. On the other hand, these guys weren’t just handed jobs due to their strike-breaking, and after the dust settled they had to earn their way on to rosters just like anyone else, so it’s hard to say they haven’t done their time, as it were.

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Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel during National Anthem

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Athletics’ rookie catcher Bruce Maxwell did not stand for the National Anthem on Saturday night. He’s the first MLB player to do so and, like other professional athletes before him, used the moment to send a message — not just to shed light on the lack of racial equality in the United States, but to specifically protest President Donald Trump’s suggestion that NFL owners fire any of their players who elect to protest the anthem by sitting or kneeling.

“Bruce’s father is a proud military lifer. Anyone who knows Bruce or his parents is well aware that the Maxwells’ love and appreciation for our country is indisputable,” Maxwell’s agent, Matt Sosnick, relayed to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser on Friday. He continued:

Bruce has made it clear that he is taking a stand about what he perceives as racial injustices in this country, and his personal disappointment with President Trump’s response to a number of professional athletes’ totally peaceful, non-violent protests.

Bruce has shared with both me and his teammates that his feelings have nothing to do with a lack of patriotism or a hatred of any man, but rather everything to do with equality for men, women and children regardless of race or religion.

While Maxwell didn’t make his own statement to the media, he took to Instagram earlier in the day to express his frustration against the recent opposition to the protests, criticizing the President for endorsing “division of man and rights.”

Despite Trump’s profanity-laced directive to NFL owners on Friday, however, it’s clear the Athletics don’t share his sentiments. “The Oakland A’s pride ourselves on being inclusive,” the team said in a statement released after Maxwell’s demonstration. “We respect and support all of our players’ constitutional rights and freedom of expression.”

Whatever the fallout, kudos to Maxwell for taking a stand. He may be the first to do so in this particular arena, but he likely won’t be the last.

Alex Wilson broke his leg on a 103-MPH comebacker

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This one is brutal. Tigers’ right-handed reliever Alex Wilson was diagnosed with a broken leg after taking a blistering 103.8-MPH line drive off of his right leg during Saturday’s game against the Twins. According to the Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, it’s a non-displaced fibular fracture, but will still warrant an extended recovery period and signal the end of Wilson’s season.

Wilson replaced Drew VerHagen to start the eighth inning and worked a full count against Joe Mauer. Mauer roped an 93.3-MPH fastball back up the middle, where it struck the pitcher on his right calf. While Mauer took first base, Wilson got to his feet and tried to toss a warm-up pitch, but was in too much pain to continue and had to be helped off the field.

Even in a season that isn’t going anywhere in particular, this isn’t how you want it to end. The Tigers have yet to announce a recovery timetable for the 30-year-old reliever, but he won’t return to the mound until 2018. He exited Saturday’s outing with a 4.35 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 6.3 SO/9 over 60 innings.

The Tigers currently trail the Twins 10-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning.