And That Happened: Tuesday's Scores and Highlights

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Crawford Upton.jpgRays 4, Orioles 3: Opening Day comes a day late for the Rays and Orioles. And only the Rays and Orioles. Why they didn’t get to play on Monday when everyone else did is beyond me. Maybe there was a gun show or a regional numismatic convention scheduled for the Trop over the weekend and they needed Monday to staple down the turf or something.  No matter, because it was worth the wait for the Rays, as they beat up Baltimore’s new closer Mike Gonzalez, who struck out Pat Burrell and then proceeded to give up a single, a double, intentionally walked a guy and then blew the game on a two-run single by Carl Crawford. That effort ended up wasting homers by Luke Scott, Adam Jones and Matt Weiters.  Rafael Soriano gets the win for the Rays despite allowing three base runners in his only inning of work. So basically, a decidedly “meh” night for former Braves closers. UPDATE: Word is now coming in that Gene Garber came up snake eyes while trying to hit on a waitress at Hoss’s Steak and Sea in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania last night as well, tipping the scale from “meh” to “ugh.”

Yankees 6, Red Sox 4: Kind of a see-saw affair that ended with
the Yankees’ pen working how they drew it up in the offseason: shutout
ball capped off by Joba and Mariano Rivera shutting the door. Four
innings of shutout ball, though, which is probably more than Joe Girardi
had wanted with A.J. Burnett on the mound, but Burnett wasn’t exactly
efficient or effective in his five innings. The winning run came when a
Scutaro throwing error allowed Jeter to reach on what what would have been out
number three followed by a Nick Johnson walk with the bases loaded. Oh, and I’ll stop mentioning that these guys play long and boring games when they stop playing long and boring games. This one: 3:48.

Giants 3, Astros 0
: The ‘Stros do worse against Barry Zito than they did against Lincecum. Zito had help, as five Giants pitchers combined for the shutout, but Barry handled six of those innings. Jeff Keppinger may have been robbed of a home run in the sixth when a ball he hit appeared to bounce off the yellow line on top of the left field wall yet was called a double by the umpires, who conferred for a bit after the play. I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Ump 1: Anyone see that?
Ump 2: I think it hit below the line.
Ump 1: You think or you know?
Ump 2: I, um, I can’t say.
Ump 3: Man, if there were only some way we could see that again so we could get the call right.
Ump 4: Sadly, no. The means have not yet been invented. Hey: anyone want to share a carriage with me to the nickelodeon theatre after the game? I hear there’s a humdinger of a moving picture playing. Then perhaps we can get hard candy, play ukuleles in canoes, and ride bicycles with giant front wheels while twirling our mustaches and singing jaunty tunes!
Umps 1, 2 and 3:  That sounds swell!

UPDATE: As many of you have noted in the comments — and as I completely missed — the umps did review Keppinger’s hit as a boundary call, just like the rules call for. Most people think they still got the call wrong. And life goes on.  Glad I didn’t realize this before I wrote the post because then I would have been deprived of writing the whole nickelodeon/big wheel bicycle sequence, and I had a lot of fun with that.

Brewers 7, Rockies 5: An unspectacular yet useful enough Brewers debut by Randy Wolf (6 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 8K) was supported by Casey McGehee’s three-run homer in the first inning which gave the Brew Crew a lead they would not relinquish. Greg Smith (5 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HR) isn’t anyone’s idea of a number two starter and he didn’t do anything to change anyone’s mind about it.

Twins 5, Angels 3: Starting pitcher with new contract: check (Blackburn, 6 IP, 3 R, 8 H, 4 BB, 4K).  Franchise catcher with new contract: check (Mauer, two run HR). Unexpected new closer: check (Rauch, first save with 2Ks and no baserunners).

Athletics 2, Mariners 1: Don Wakamatsu, I love you and everything, but if you keep encapsulating everything that matters in pithy little postgame quotes like this, I’ll be out of a job: “It’s really the offense. From 4-9 we were 1 for 24 and that’s the story
of this ballgame. The story comes down to not scoring runs. We scored
the one on a wild pitch and that was it.” I’ll merely add that it’s a story that he should get used to. And it won’t hold up to repeated readings like, say, Isaac Asimov’s “Nightfall.”

Padres 6, Diamondbacks 3: Chris Young’s first start since last June 14th was quite the success (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5K). Which had to be galling for the Diamondbacks because Brandon Webb is coming off the same surgery Young had back in August and he can’t even really throw yet.  Pfun Pfact: While Arizona’s Chris Young hit an RBI double off of Luke Gregerson, he is 0 for 16 in his career against San Diego’s
Chris Young. It’s like having an arch nemesis doppleganger, but different.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
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A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.