Mac Thomason

Bad news for a great guy

26 Comments

I lost contact with baseball for many years in the mid-to-late 90s. I followed it, generally, but I didn’t obsess. I rooted for my team, but it was fairly shallow. It happens to a lot of people in their 20s, even if they were hardcore fans when they were kids. Some of us find our way back. Some of us don’t.

One of the biggest reasons I found my way back was Mac Thomason. Mac is the proprietor of Braves Journal.  As Gleeman put it a few minutes ago, he’s one of the OG bloggers. Hell, he’s been around since before anyone was calling these things blogs. And it was by going to his site every day for Braves updates, analysis and fan chatter that I was able to make it all the way back from near-casual fan to the obsessive I am today.

Maybe worse than an obsessive for a while. Like a lot of people who find themselves reborn in some way, I was a bit too zealous for a little while there. By virtue of Mac’s comments section I let my vitriol regarding the late stages of the Braves quasi-dynasty run a bit too hot at times.  For example, after they traded Kevin Millwood for Johnny Estrada, I said that I wouldn’t watch the Braves anymore until John Schuerholz was “either fired or dead.” Oh, the things one says to a message board no one reads!

Except, people read Mac’s message board.  Important people. People like John Schuerholz, who actually quoted my comment verbatim, and the comments of several other Braves Journal readers, several years later when he wrote his autobiography. He quotes my intemperate words on page 71 in a section talking about how insane fans can be sometimes.  I apologized for that several years ago, but it still embarrasses me.

That whole episode is a testament to just how important and influential a great team-specific blog can be.  It can make and perpetuate fandom.  It can ruffle an organization’s feathers. Apart from wanting to get crappy players out of the lineup, Mac has never been one for crusades — and he has never been the type of team blogger who seeks to curry favor with the organization or get access — but he’s a smart, discerning fan who provides smart discerning (and often grumpy) commentary about his team’s travails on a day-to-day basis and that’s the kind of thing that institutions really don’t much care for. If I worked for the Braves I’d probably consider him a pain in the ass.  If I was Mac, I’d probably take tremendous joy from this.

I’m writing about Mac because today he shared some bad news with Braves Journal readers.  He’s been battling cancer for a while, but things have taken a bad turn.  He had surgery last week, but it was aborted due to the cancer having spread.  Here are Mac’s words from this morning:

From all appearances, the remaining cancer has entered a virulent stage. It is not likely to kill me directly; instead it will decrease the effectiveness of my organs by taking away the space they need to operate. The time frame is unclear, but basically I was told that the best measure if they don’t find a treatment is months rather than years.

We’re not giving up. We are, if we can, going to talk to the doctor in Indianapolis with whom I talked last year, and see if he has any ideas. There is a protocol in trials in Philadelphia which looks promising and applicable to my case. And dammit, a lot of people (including a great-uncle of mine) have lived for a long time with cancer hanging over them. Maybe it’s just the drugs talking, but I don’t expect to go any time soon. I fully expect to celebrate when the Braves lift the 2012 World Series trophy over their heads.

Great. The world’s foremost Braves blogger is depending on Philadelphia for treatment. And people wonder why I don’t believe in God.

OK, sorry. Humor and vitriol are how I deal with sad news, and this is pretty damn sad.  But, as Mac says, it’s not hopeless. And even if it was, I’m not going to give up hope because sometimes all we can do to keep our sanity in this world is to hold on to irrational hope. If not because it will make the situation better, then because it really, really pisses off the fates and dark spirits that seek to hurt us so. They want us broken. Don’t break. Ever.

If you pray, please think of doing so for Mac.  If you don’t, hold a good thought in your heart and mind.  If you’re able, please donate to Mac’s tip jar, on the right hand sidebar of the front page.  If none of those things work for you, at least consider starting ugly rumors about Fredi Gonzalez which may cause him to lose his job so that Mac doesn’t have to embark on his epic final showdown with cancer while annoyances like Fredi Gonzalez running his team float about.

I’m rooting for you, Mac.  Treat cancer like Chipper treats the Mets. Make it your bitch and then name your kid after the place it lives.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

adams
Getty Images
5 Comments

ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
15 Comments

A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.