MLB is pushing Hicks' creditors to sign-off on the Rangers sale

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Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram reports that MLB is stepping in to the Tom Hicks-HSG Creditors dispute in an effort to get the Rangers sale locked down:

The last obstacle delaying the sale of the Texas Rangers could be
cleared this week, thanks to an assist from Major League Baseball. Sources
confirmed that the lenders who hold $525 million in Hicks Sports
Group debt were sent a request from MLB to reach a settlement with HSG by the end of the week.
agreement would allow the deal in place with Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan to move forward toward final approval from baseball’s club

Look, I know I’ve been critical and pessimistic about this deal for a long time, but believe me when I say that I don’t mean to be pessimistic when I ask why a request from Major League Baseball to the creditors would constitute “an assist” that could make this get put to bed any faster than it otherwise would.  If it were more than a request — if say, MLB kicked in some money or promises or something that could help bridge the gap between Hicks and his creditors — I could see how that could wrap things up.

But what would a mere request from a non-party to the debt really do? If the creditors are trying to squeeze money out of Hicks to let this thing happen, the only thing that will make them do so is more money. From everything that has been reported these creditors are trying to take advantage of their temporary leverage to extract as much dough as possible. Based on this report all baseball is doing is asking these guys to get the deal done on Greenberg and Ryan’s timetable. So what? Everyone has been wanting that for months.

My guess, and it is just a guess, is that one of two things is happening: (1) Wilson is being a tad optimistic about what MLB’s “request” could accomplish and reaches his “assist” conclusion a bit too hastily; or (2) Baseball has done more than “request” that the deal get done. Rather, they’ve offered something to the creditors to facilitate it but understandably don’t want to be seen as bailing out Hicks any more than they already have.

Either way, everyone is saying that they think this will be done the week of April 19th. 

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.