Reid Brignac’s power outage continues


The Rays pounded out 19 hits on Thursday, scoring 15 runs in a rout of the Twins. Six of those hits went for extra bases, including homers from Casey Kotchman and Ben Zobrist.

Uninvited to the party, though, was Reid Brignac. He managed just a single in five at-bats. The Rays’ starting shortstop has now had 57 at-bats this season and hasn’t managed a double, a triple or a homer in any of them.

That’s quite a change for Brignac, who was annointed the Rays’ starting shortstop after Jason Bartlett was traded to the Padres. He earned the job by collecting eight homers and 13 doubles in 301 at-bats last year. He drove in 45 runs. At that pace over a full season of 550 at-bats, he would have finished with 15 homers and 82 RBI. In his major league career, he had managed an extra-base hit every 12 at-bats.

But to start 2011, Brignac has gone four weeks without one and he’s lost some playing time as a result. It’s enough to make one wonder whether the Rays might send him down when Evan Longoria comes off the DL next week. They’d lose something defensively by going that route, but they do have three shortstop alternatives on the roster in Felipe Lopez, Sean Rodriguez and Elliot Johnson.

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.