Some more details on the Steinbrenner stuff


Yesterday there were two reports spinning out of FOIA requests related to George Steinbrenner. One dealing with his criminal conviction for campaign finance law violations and one related to his pardon request, which was supported by multiple instances of Steinbrenner assisting the FBI.

Today the New York Times has more details about those things, including the assertions by Steinbrenner’s lawyer at the time — corroborated, it seems, by the FBI — that Steinbrenner put himself at some degree of risk in helping the FBI. The upshot: the cases involved terrorism and organized crime and there was some concern that there could be retaliation against Steinbrenner’s family if things went sideways.

Maybe this was overstated. After all, a lot of these documents appear to be from Steinbrenner’s lawyer in the course of advocating for a pardon for his client, so they’re going to naturally make things seem a bit more dire than they really were. But think how history could have changed if someone did go after The Boss’ family and, say, took out Hal instead of Hank, leaving the latter to run the Yankees by himself.  I shudder at the very prospect.

In other news, the article in the New York Times is accompanied by the below picture, which is pure money, made all the more money because it was taken at Billy Martin’s funeral. If they could have somehow gotten Martin in there — or if they could have panned the crowd for some other rake or scoundrel — it could be the Mount Rushmore of vice:

(Associated Press)

Spending bill could exempt minor leaguers from federal labor laws

Scott Olson/Getty Images

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.