I long ago abandoned the notion that MLB.com was Pravda or something, which is what I first thought it would be when it started up. The reporting there is very good, and sometimes great. Many of the MLB.com beat writers are much better than the newspaper guys who cover the same beat. Many of the columnists are aces. If they made videos instantly and freely embeddable I’d probably make the place my home page, but let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good.
But once in a while something shows up over there that makes me scratch my head. A year or two ago there was a five-part “analysis” of some of the labor issues facing baseball. After two parts were published, each of which basically left out the players’ side of the story and seemed to be pretty credulous of the owners’ claims, it abruptly ended. I’ve always wondered if the reporter who wrote that — a good reporter, by the way — was getting boned by heavy-handed editors and simply said that he couldn’t go on with it. And while it was a rare incident, I have kept it in mind when I read things over there. You just gotta keep your guard up whenever an institution is reporting on itself, as is the case with all of the league websites.
My sensors went off again today with Hal Bodley’s latest column. It reflects on Bud Selig’s legacy in light of the creation of that Commissioner’s Archive I mentioned yesterday which bears his name, and it’s a surprisingly non-critical look at Selig as well as the other Commissioners whose work will be documented there.
According to Bodley, Selig “had to endure the 1994-95 players strike,” when in fact he and like-minded owners fomented it. He talks about Selig’s early struggles to gain acceptance as Commissioner without acknowledging that, for whatever good things Selig has done since then, he basically took over in a palace coup, which makes his transition problems pretty darn understandable.
Bodley likewise positively spins the work of other Commissioners like Uberroth (he slayed the cocaine dragon!), Kuhn (he and Charlie Finley were nutty!) and Landis (he restored order after the Black Sox Scandal!) without noting that each of them — especially Landis — were just as responsible for baseball’s problems during their reign than they were for advancing the game. Commissioners are active players with their own agendas and they always have been. They’re not independent, Solomonic leaders.
Do I expect Bodley to viciously rip the Commissioners in an MLB.com piece? No. But A tongue bath is just as inappropriate in my view.
Josh Norris of Baseball America reports that Minor League Baseball has established a political action committee to continue fighting against a lawsuit brought by a group of former minor league players seeking increased wages and back pay.
You may recall that, earlier this year, two members of Congress — Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democrat Cheri Bustos of Illinois — introduced H.R. 5580 in the House of Representatives. Also known as the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” H.R. 5580 sought to change language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In doing so, minor leaguers wouldn’t have been covered under a law that protects workers who are paid hourly. Minor League Baseball publicly endorsed the bill. Bustos withdrew her support after receiving widespread criticism.
The whole thing started when Sergio Miranda filed a lawsuit in 2014, accusing Major League Baseball teams of colluding to eliminate competition. The lawsuit challenged the reserve clause, which binds minor leaguers into contracts with their teams for seven years. That suit was dismissed in September 2015. However, another lawsuit was filed in October last year — known as Senne vs. the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball — alleging that minor leaguers were victims of violations of state and federal minimum wage laws. Senne et. al. suffered a setback this summer when U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco dismissed class certification. That essentially meant that the players could not file a class-action lawsuit. As a result, the players’ legal team led by Garrett Broshuis amended their case to only include players who play in one league for an entire season. As Norris notes, that means that the included players’ experiences are uniform enough for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit.
So that’s why Minor League Baseball established a political action committee (PAC). A PAC, for the unfamiliar, is an organization created with the intent of raising money to defeat a particular candidate, legislation, or ballot initiative. In other words, they’re getting serious and want Capitol Hill’s help.
Minor League Baseball president Stan Brand said, “Because of procedurally what has happened in the Congress and the difficulties in getting legislation, we’ve got to adjust to that. We were lucky. We had the ability because of the depth of the relationships and involvement in the communities to not have to worry about that. And now we do, I think. The PAC . . . gives us another tool to re-enforce who we are and why we’re important.”
Norris mentions in his column that Phillies minor league outfielder Dylan Cozens received the Joe Baumann Award for leading the minors with 40 home runs. That came with an $8,000 prize. Cozens said that the prize was more than he made all season. The minor league regular season spanned from April 7 to September 5, about six months. Athletes aren’t paid in the other six months which includes offseason training and spring training. They are also not paid for participating in instructional leagues and the Arizona Fall League. Minor leaguers lack union representation, which is why their fight for fair pay has been such an uphill battle.
Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the White Sox and Nationals are making “strong progress” on a trade involving ace Chris Sale. Most reports coming out on Monday night suggest that a deal isn’t likely to be consummated until Tuesday at the earliest.
Sale, 27, has pitched in the majors over parts of seven seasons. He owns a career 74-50 record with a 3.00 ERA and a 1,244/260 K/BB ratio in 1,110 innings. The lefty will earn $12 million in 2017, then has a club option for 2018 worth $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout as well as a 2019 club option worth $13.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Relative to what he would earn if he were a free agent today, Sale’s remaining salary is a bargain.
The Nationals would likely have to part with several of their top prospects. MLB Pipeline lists pitcher Lucas Giolito, outfielder Victor Robles, and pitcher Reynoldo Lopez in the club’s top-three.
Adding Sale would arguably give the Nationals claim to the best starting rotation in baseball as he would join 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.
There are other teams in the mix for Sale. The Red Sox and Astros have also talked with the White Sox about the lefty’s services.