Comparing and contrasting the Wilpon fooforaw and the McCourt arglebargle


That’s what Bill Shaikin is up to over at the L.A. Times today.  At least comparing the possible solutions to it.

Shaikin notes that one possible outcome that is being discussed with the Mets is that the Wilpons would sell part of the team and maybe a stake in their television network SNY and use the money to pay off the bankruptcy trustee. Shaikin writes:

What that means is that Wilpon could sell a share in the Mets and/or SNY, the team-owned cable channel, to help finance a settlement, at $1 billion or something less. And what that means for baseball is that Wilpon would be diverting the money generated from any such sales to resolve litigation rather than to improve the team.

McCourt and his attorneys would find that extremely interesting.

Commissioner Bud Selig has so far resisted any deal in which Fox would pay McCourt a hefty sum in exchange for the Dodgers’ long-term broadcast rights. The logic: The money Fox would pay should go to improve the team, not to pay off an ex-wife in a divorce settlement.

Except I don’t see how these situations are similar. At all.  In the Wilpons case it would be selling an interest in the actual network that they own, not auctioning off the team’s broadcast rights for the purposes of settling litigation.  In the former case it’s the owners’ property being sold. In another it’s revenue that should, by all rights, inure to the benefit of the team itself, being diverted away from the team.  Frank McCourt doesn’t own FOX Sports.  His team sells the right to broadcast baseball games it plays.

A better analogy here would be if McCourt wanted to sell off his stamp collection or some other big parking lot he owns or something to pay off his wife.  I’m sure that Commissioner Selig would have no trouble with that.  I can totally see, however, why he’d differentiate between Wilpon using SNY sale proceeds to pay off the bankruptcy trustee and McCourt using the Dodgers’ broadcast rights to finance his divorce settlement.

So sorry Frank.  Your problem may not be as big as Fred Wilpon’s problem. But your universe of possible solutions is indeed smaller.

UPDATE: There’s a lengthy and quite critical update to this post here.

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.