Mark Prior is "having a blast" playing independent league ball


Mark Prior is making his latest and perhaps last comeback attempt with the Orange County Flyers of the independent Golden League, and Tom Krasovic of Fanhouse caught up with the former phenom who said he’s “having a blast … just getting back out there and just playing the game.”

Prior is seeing game action for the first time since 2008, when he “felt something like a firecracker going off in my shoulder” while trying to make it back to the majors with the Padres. Once a dominant starter with Hall of Fame potential Prior is now working as a reliever in the hopes that shorter outings can finally keep him healthy at age 29.

According to Krasovic his fastball is in the high-80s and low-90s, topping out at 92 miles per hour. Before all the injuries, Prior averaged 94 mph. However, just a few weeks ago he was struggling to crack 90 mph, so Prior is hopeful that he can add even more velocity as he progresses.

Assuming, of course, that he can stay healthy.

I’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s taken me awhile to get my arm healthy. I think it’s healthy. I think I’m starting to show that to people. Now I need to refine and retool everything after three or four years away from competitive games. I don’t think I’m going to come back as a starter right now. Right now my best goal and my best chance is to come back as a reliever.

I think my body will handle that better than trying to go out there and throw 110 pitches or 120 pitches every fifth day. Once I can show everybody that I’m healthy as a reliever, maybe get a full season under my belt as a reliever, maybe I’ll go back to that road [as a starter] and see what’s up.

Prior hasn’t been healthy and effective since 2005 and right now he’s pitching against low-level competition in front of a couple hundred fans per game, so regardless of role he’s still a long way from the big leagues.

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.