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.

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.