The Rangers won't be auctioned, would they?

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I get the shakes if I don’t write something about the Rangers sale for more than 48 hours or so and right now I’m jonesin’ hard, so I’ll even settle for linking to Heyman:

The snag in the Texas Rangers’ sale talks appears fairly serious. Two
sources say they believe the banks are looking for $50 million more.
They are unlikely to cut Rangers owner Tom Hicks any slack,
either, as he’s been slow to pay back his debts. One possibility if this
deal falls through might be to auction off the team.

This comes in a notes column and doesn’t have much more context than that so it’s hard to say if Heyman has heard something new or just going off of the reports from early last week about the latest creditor objections.  Either way, his reference to an auction of the team is something I’ve never seen anyone say before.

And while it’s a possibility, it doesn’t strike me as a realistic possibility. If someone involved in the current negotiations decides that a total impasse has been reached aren’t there less-intrusive options?  For one thing, Greenberg-Ryan could simply go back to the drawing board with a new proposal that bypasses Hicks in some important way or otherwise makes the creditors happy in ways that Hicks can’t seem to now. Also, might it not be possible for the guys who were interested before — Jim Crane or Dennis Gilbert — to get back into this thing?  Reports had each of them with some important advantages back in December, with some people saying that Crane’s offer was the richest and others saying that Gilbert was favored by Major League Baseball.

All of that is speculation, of course — I have no idea if Crane or Gilbert are even interested any more or if there’s some procedural reason why Greenberg and Ryan couldn’t simply start over — but those options all seem more likely and less disastrous for all involved than some auction or bankruptcy gambit that the creditors have been barking about in recent weeks.

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.