Johan Santana’s no-hitter is the latest step on his road to redemption


When the Mets acquired Johan Santana from the Twins in February of 2008 and signed him to a six-year, $137.5 million contract, he was supposed to be the piece that would bring the team back to the postseason.

Things haven’t exactly worked out that way, as the Mets narrowly missed the playoffs in 2008 and have endured three straight losing seasons since. Santana underwent shoulder surgery in August of 2010 and didn’t throw a pitch in the majors last year. There were many who doubted whether he would ever throw a pitch in the majors again, let alone resemble the ace we saw in the past. Perhaps we shouldn’t underestimate him any longer.

After going the distance in a 9-0 win over the Padres last Saturday, Santana went a step further this evening by tossing the first no-hitter in Mets’ history as part of an 8-0 win over the Cardinals. Finally. After 50 years and 8,020 games, the Mets have their first no-hitter. And they said it would never happen.

Sure, it wasn’t the prettiest. Santana walked five and needed a career-high 134 pitches to get it done. We’ll hear plenty about third base umpire Adrian Johnson, who missed a would-be double by Carlos Beltran down the third base line in the top of the sixth inning. With expanded replay, the Mets might not have had this moment. Of course, we could probably cherry pick other no-hitters which had similar controversial plays, too. We all know this game isn’t perfect. Not right now. Probably not ever. But that’s a conversation for another time. Sometimes it’s a real drag to dwell on the negative when somebody accomplishes something pretty awesome. And tonight was pretty awesome, whether you are a Mets fan or not.

After missing all of last season rehabbing from shoulder surgery, the resurgent Santana now has a fantastic 2.38 ERA and 68/21 K/BB ratio over 68 innings this year. He still hasn’t led the Mets back to the postseason, but tonight he provided the first real “moment” since Citi Field opened its doors in 2009. And it didn’t hurt that he did it against the Cardinals, who defeated the Mets in seven games in the 2006 NLCS.

Congress to pass bill depriving minor leaguers of minimum wage rights

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We saw this coming and wrote about it last weekend, but now it’s official: the new spending bill from Congress contains a gift for Major League and Minor League Baseball in the form of a provision classifying minor leaguers as seasonal workers, exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. Practically speaking, this means that minor leaguers are not required to be paid minimum wage or have other basic protections to which even part-timers at fast food restaurants are entitled.

The relevant provision — buried on page 1,967 of the 2,232-page spending bill, which will get almost zero time to be read and processed by most people before it’s ultimately passed signed into law by tomorrow — is farcically entitled the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” It exempts from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 people who fit this description:

[A]ny employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not on spring training or the off season) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage under section 6(a) for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities.

It may be news to you that the multi-billion baseball industry, run by a few dozen billionaires and billion-dollar businesses, needed to be “saved” in such a fashion. Congress knew though. Maybe because Congress is so benevolent and wise. Or, maybe, because baseball’s lobbying operation spent millions plying Congressmen for this special law to keep it from having to pay workers a living wage.

Based on the response to our past writings on this topic, I suspect most of you won’t care all that much. You either believe that all or most of these players are wealthy via six or seven-figure signing bonuses or will make serious money in the big leagues one day. That’s not true, but many of you believe it. Or, alternatively, maybe you view minor leaguers as a bunch of kids farting around with a hobby until they start their “real life,” so why should they make a living wage?

To the extent you believe that and to the extent this does not bother you, I’d simply suggest that you ask how much money minor league and major league organizations make via the playing and marketing of minor league baseball and how much Major League Baseball benefits by having its training and development system costs legislatively controlled. Ask yourself whether the company that gave you your first entry-level position would’ve loved to have a law allowing it to pay you less than minimum wage and how you would’ve felt if that was the case in your situation. Ask yourself if anyone else would have cared all that much about the job you had when you were 22 and whether that would make a difference to you as you made the equivalent of $5 or $6 an hour for a multi-billion dollar business.

Maybe that still doesn’t sway you. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a greedy cash grab by baseball which now, thanks to specially-requested government intervention, institutionalizes and legitimizes the exploitation of young men with very little power and even less money. That you may be OK with it doesn’t make it right. In fact, it’s very, very wrong.