Deadspin has a pretty controversial theory on the Braun decision


Over at Deadspin, Tommy Craggs offers a potential theory of why Ryan Braun won his arbitration, even though many believe the case against him was so strong:

Over the weekend, however, I spoke with someone familiar with the arbitration process in general. He had another theory: Ryan Braun didn’t get off because of the merits of his case; he got off because the arbitrator who cast the decisive vote in Braun’s favor—the vote with which baseball “vehemently disagrees”—was thinking about his own future.

The upshot: arbitrator Shyam Das serves at the pleasure of both the union and the league. He has ruled against players an awful lot lately, especially on drug cases, and he used the Braun case as a means to balance the scales a bit so the union wouldn’t get fed up with him and fire him from his lucrative and high-profile gig. As Craggs puts it “If ever there were a case for Das to throw to the players, it was this one.”

Possible? Well, I suppose anything is possible. But saying that an arbitrator is placing his self interest ahead of the case in front of him is an extraordinarily serious charge. One which I’d feel a lot more comfortable entertaining if it was based on something more than a theory from “someone familiar with the arbitration process in general.”  Because really, this is not terribly different from saying that a judge threw a case because he was thinking about his reelection.

Less broadly, the theory has a major problem:  if the arbitrator was really throwing this thing — a case where it seems most people who are not Ryan Braun’s legal team think MLB should have won — it’s just as likely if not more so that Major League Baseball would get angry and fire Das.  At least it’s a risk, so what would Das have to gain here by being unethical?

What would not be as risky is if Das were to make a well-reasoned decision that explains why this case, and not any others, had this particular outcome. It would satisfy the union because it would be based in reason and would have an outcome with which they were happy. It would satisfy the league, eventually anyway, because it would be based in reason, would not present a scenario that would be replicable in future appeals and would provide a road map to the league about how to fix the problem.

We’re going to get Das’ reasoning, by the way, within a few weeks, so we’ll be able to judge that for ourselves.  Until then, I’m loathe to accuse this man of violating ethical considerations in reaching the decision he reached.

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.