A's eqipment bag

Scenes from Spring Training Coco Crisp is an anti-baldite too

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Yeah, it’s another equipment bag shot. At this point I probably need an intervention. If you see me out someplace, kneeling on a warning track, squaring up a photo of an equipment bag on the grass, you are authorized to knock me over and take my camera away from me.

I’m at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to catch the Reds-A’s game today. As I mentioned earlier, it’s Yoenis Cespedes Day, but I was looking forward to it anyway because I like this place. I dig the extremely municipal touches like the large, featureless parking lot and the pedestrian bridge over the road to the park. I dig the poured concrete columns and roof over the press box. I dig the 1960s design flourishes. If the “Mad Men” people wanted to put in some Phoenix-in-March subplot, they could film here and all they’d have to do is to cover up the electronic scoreboard.

The clubhouse was fun this morning. Manny Ramirez walked in right after I did. His locker, by the way, is two down from Cespedes’ locker, so I’m guessing the A’s are making sure Cespedes has a strong mentor and spiritual guide as he enters the big leagues.

I went over to talk to Manny, hoping that it would be as interesting as some of his past chats. I chickened out on the surrealism, though, and decided to ask him some basic stuff. For example, how he feels after a couple weeks of workouts following what amounted to a year off:

Me: Do you feel close to where you were in past seasons at this point, or is there still some rust?

Manny: Well, it’s like my dad says, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

I’m going to assume that Manny thinks his dad invented that phrase. It makes me happy to think that.

I wandered around a bit more. Coco Crisp walked toward me, smiling. He said “bald must be the hot new hair style for you guys. Everyone here is wearing it.” I looked around and saw Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.com, who is bald. There were a couple other bald reporters in there too.  Crisp had a point.  But really, between him and Bastian’s taunting, I’m just gonna start wearing hats when I leave the house.

Other notable stuff:

  • Jonny Gomes was talking to a player I didn’t know. He was claiming — in a bad Spanish accent — that henceforth he shall be known as “Juan Gomez.”  Something tells me that’s not gonna stick;
  • For the entire hour I was in the clubhouse, Cesepedes sat in front of his locker. He occasionally talked to an older guy who I assume is his translator, and he talked with Manny a bit, but he didn’t really mix. Big day for him. You can never really tell just by looking at someone, and it’s possible that he is just a shy guy, but I got the sense that maybe he’s a bit nervous.
  • It was apparently free gear day today, as there was a rep from Nike there with a big box of sunglasses, passing them out to the players. There was also a glove guy showing off his wares to Kurt Suzuki and breaking in gloves for other players who kept coming by.  Outside the clubhouse they had set up a table with catalogs and samples of clothes. Baseball players get all kinds of cool perks.
  • Above Wes Timmons’ locker were taped two baseball cards. One was Josh Reddick. The other was Chipper Jones. Timmons wasn’t there, so I have no idea why he had those two. Jones might make sense as a mentor as Timmons was in the Braves organization forever. But really, this is the kind of thing that is gonna bug me for a while.

Maybe I can track him down now, as the A’s have left the clubhouse and are out doing their stretching and stuff.  I’ll check back in later.

The Chicago Cubs dramatically jack up ticket prices

Wrigley Field
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The Cubs won the World Series. Now Cubs fans are going to pay through the nose for the privilege of going to games at Wrigley Field: The club has raised season ticket prices for 2017, on average, 19.5%. The rate increases range from 6% for upper deck seats to 31% for infield club seats.

As a result of the increase, the Chicago Tribune reports, a single infield box seat on the dugout for 81 games will cost $29,089.76, or $359 per game. The cheapest season ticket, for upper-deck outfield seats, is $2,139.20, or $26 per game. Those figures include tax, so it’s practically a bargain.

The Cubs cite “unprecedented demand” for tickets as the reason for the increase. That’s likely true. Cubs tickets are expensive even when they aren’t playing well due to the draw that is Wrigley Field. Indeed, for years, when the product on the field suffered, there was a sense that people would go to the ballpark just for the fun of it in ways that fans rarely if ever do for other teams. The Cubs attendance increased dramatically in 2016 and tickets often experienced an equally dramatic increase on the secondary ticket market. The Cubs would be wise to try to capture as much of that profit as they can rather than see it go to others.

Still, that’s gonna smart for people who can’t afford season tickets and who just want to go to a one-off game with the kids and exacerbates the longstanding trend of baseball tickets becoming luxury items for the well-off.

Minor League Baseball established a political action committee to fight paying players more

DURHAM, NC - JULY 28:  The Chicago White Sox play the Most Valuable Prospects during the championship game of the 2011 Breakthrough Series at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on July 28, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  Most Valuable Prospects won 17-2 over the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
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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.