Back injury puts Roy Oswalt’s career in jeopardy


Roy Oswalt left the Phillies’ 12-2 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday night after allowing four runs in two innings and feeling tightness in his lower back.

Later, we discovered that the pain in Oswalt’s back would cause him to miss his next start.

Now, the news has become grim, as the veteran right-hander is talking about the possibility of his injury sending him to the sideline for good.

From Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly:

“You throw as long as you can and when you can’t throw anymore you don’t,” the 33-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Hopefully it’s not to the point where I can’t throw anymore. If it’s at that point, you just have to accept it.”

Oswalt said he will have an MRI on Monday – doesn’t that seem a little far off for something this serious? – and if the examination brings the type of news that puts his career in jeopardy …

“I’ve had a pretty good one,” Oswalt said with resignation.


Oswalt has been dealing with back issues for years, and told Salisbury that he has had “a lot” of cortisone injections over the years. An MRI “a year or two ago” revealed two degenerative discs. This season, Oswalt says, he has felt pain “when I sit down, stand up, walk, pitch, sleep,” and he already spent more than two weeks on the disabled list earlier this season.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said “he’s had trouble for quite a while. This started back in Arizona (in April). … I’m definitely concerned about it.”

The loss of Oswalt would be a blow to a team built around its starting rotation of Oswalt, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels. No. 5 starter Joe Blanton has been sidelined since mid-May with elbow inflammation, but rookie Vance Worley has been solid in his place, going 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in seven games (five starts).

Kyle Kendrick, who allowed two runs in four innings in relief of Oswalt on Thursday, would seem to be the likely candidate to step into the rotation. He is 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 18 appearances (including five starts) this season.

Oswalt, a three-time All-Star, is 154-89 with a 3.52 ERA in his 11-year career. He has a mutual option with the Phillies for $16 million next season. If he walks away, or the team buys him out, he’ll be owed $2 million.


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.