Joe Torre wants baseball players to cut down on the fraternization. Why?


From Buster Olney’s column yesterday. This seems like something from 1971 not 2011:

Before every game, position players on both teams will gather on the foul lines and do their last sprints before the first pitch, and often this leads to greetings in the outfield behind second base — hearty handshakes and hugs.

If Joe Torre, baseball’s new czar of on-field discipline, has his way, then this kind of thing will be curtailed. Torre has asked club staff members to nudge their players toward curtailing that kind of fraternization after the gates have been opened to fans.

I can’t think of a single reason why this would be a priority for anyone in Major League Baseball. What, you don’t want to show fans that it’s OK to like and respect their competitors?  That it’s more than a game and extends into personal rivalry?  Isn’t that the exact opposite that the Dodgers and Giants players tried to demonstrate back when they had their first series following the beating of Bryan Stow?

Personally, I watched some of the Cubs-Reds on Saturday and Fox had Brandon Phillips miked up for the game. I found it really enjoyable when Fukudome was at second base and Phillips was talking to him about him abandoning his high leg kick and stuff.  I like it when I see former teammates talking to each other on the field before the game.  I like to think of baseball players less as gladiators, pit in combat with one another than as people who have a great job and like one another’s company.  Is that crazy?

Maybe it is.  Maybe Joe Torre would prefer if it baseball fans perceived the game like it was professional wrestling and that guys who actually like one another really didn’t. Maybe we need to impose some sort of kayfabe overlay to all of this to give everyone a bigger bang for their buck. To make them think that the competition they’re about to see isn’t merely enjoyable, exciting and expertly executed, but deadly, deadly serious as well.

Actually, no, we don’t need that. It’s a dumb idea. Let them fraternize, Joe. The game and its fans will find a way to endure it.

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.