Manny Ramirez

Scott Miller on Manny Ramirez’s presence on the Oakland A’s: “unconscionable”

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Last week Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com made a series of tweets excoriating the Athletics for signing Manny Ramirez. He called the move “reprehensible” and said it was evidence that we lived in a “twisted world.”  He then promised to tear Manny and the A’s a new one when he visited their camp in Phoenix and wrote about him. It was not the typical thing you see from an experienced reporter and columnist.

After I wrote a post about that I had an email exchange with Miller. It was very pleasant, as Miller is an extremely polite and pleasant man. Not just my opinion, by the way. Others I know who have met him or corresponded with him have said the same thing and I have no doubt about it. Anyway, we didn’t come to any grand agreement in the exchange apart from us both agreeing that Twitter is odd.

Miller did say, however, that when he did meet Ramirez at A’s camp that he would give the story a fair shake, listen to what he had to say and what the A’s had to say about it all and that his resulting column would not be based exclusively on preconceived notions and his first, somewhat intemperate reaction to the Ramirez signing.

Well, Miller’s column is up, and it seems that Manny didn’t do anything to change his mind.

Indeed, Miller’s reaction was the same, if not even more extreme regarding the morals and ethics of signing Ramirez.  It’s “unconscionable,” Miller says. He concludes his story by saying “Right is right, and wrong is wrong. And this is wrong from every angle.”

Except there’s nothing in the story, complete with an interview with Ramirez, which explains why Miller feels this way apart from the fact that Manny has, in the past, been a serial jackass. Ramirez talks at length about how he has found religion and how it has set him straight (and, implicitly, how the way he behaved before was wrong).  He talks about a fresh start and trying to do right.  In the course of the interview, Ramirez is delivered flowers from “someone in Boston” — where Ramirez is supposed to be hated, if you believe the anti-Manny crowd — and Miller disapproves.

One anonymous player — and it’s not clear if it’s an A’s player, but I’ll assume it is — disapproves of Manny’s past transgressions. Those on the record have no problem with it. There is no information presented or argument made in the article that this is a bad move for the A’s financially or competitively. The entirety of Miller’s disapproval of Manny Ramirez  on the Oakland A’s is that he’s Manny Ramirez.

Which is fine. It’s Miller’s column and Miller’s opinion. But I just don’t see what, based on the nature of all of the men who have played before Manny Ramirez and still play this game despite being less-than-savory characters, makes the A’s signing of Ramirez so much worse than any number of other signings. Josh Leuke pled no contest to false imprisonment with violence after being charged with rape (and lied to the police and the Seattle Mariners about it).  Brett Myers punched his wife. There are a bunch of players, coaches and executives who have been arrested for drunk driving. These are all far worse things than testing positive for PEDs.

So why is Ramirez so bad? What is it about him that sets Miller — and others, I’ll grant — off when it comes to him?  I don’t know.  I really don’t know why Manny is such a lightning rod compared to others who have screwed up and annoyed us.

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

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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
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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.