Austin Jackson, Bryce Harper lead All-Star snubs


You knew it was coming. In truth, I think those in charge did a better job of picking this season’s All-Stars than they have in recent years. Still, I have some disagreements, even if none of them are quite as vehement as last season’s.

Austin Jackson (OF Tigers) – Jackson’s DL stint probably cost him a roster spot, but he’s played in just as many games as Mike Trout this year and has the better OPS of the two at .945. In fact, he ranks sixth in the AL in OPS, and he’s played an outstanding center field for Detroit. Ideally, the AL would have found room for him, Trout and Adam Jones on the squad, but if one of them had to be left off, it should have been Jones.

Bryce Harper (OF Nationals) – No, Harper didn’t necessarily deserve a roster spot on merit. But it’s not like he was far off, either, and he’d give a lot of people more reason to watch the All-Star Game.  He probably would have been voted in as a starter had he been listed on the ballot. His .274/.346/.475 line is about as valuable as Jay Bruce’s .257/.327/.526, especially once one factors in that Bruce is putting up his numbers at Great American. There still could be room for him on the team if he wins the Final Vote, as seems likely.

James McDonald (RHP Pirates) – Incredibly enough, the NL All-Star pitching staff will feature just one guy in the top six in the league in ERA and three of the top 11. Brandon Beachy and Ryan Dempster, Nos. 1 and 2 respectively, are on the DL, so they weren’t possibilities. No. 3 R.A. Dickey did get the nod. However, the next three on the list: Ryan Vogelsong, Johnny Cueto and McDonald, were all left out. I see McDonald as the biggest snub. Not only is he sixth in ERA, but he’s fourth in the league in WHIP. His three losses this year have all come in games in which the Pirates were shut out.

Johan Santana (LHP Mets) – How many no-hitters does a guy have to throw to get some recognition? Santana is 10th in the NL in ERA ahead of All-Stars Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Wade Miley, Cole Hamels and Lance Lynn. I’d have gone with McDonald over Lynn, Santana over Miley and either Cueto or Madison Bumgarner over Hamels.

Edwin Encarnacion (1B-DH Blue Jays) – The AL is carrying three designated hitters and still couldn’t find room for this guy? Encarnacion ranks seventh in the league in OPS and fifth in homers. He’s also struck out 70 times fewer than Adam Dunn.

Jake Peavy (RHP White Sox) – In stark contrast to the NL, the AL managed to take its top five pitchers by ERA. Still, manager Ron Washington left off No. 6 in Peavy. Peavy also ranks fourth in WHIP and sixth in strikeouts, but he’s just 6-5 thanks to poor support. The White Sox probably didn’t want him pitching in the game anyway.

Jed Lowrie (SS Astros) – Lowrie leads all shortstops in homers and is third in OPS behind the AL All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera and the injured Troy Tulowitzki. I don’t mind Jose Altuve as Houston’s All-Star, but on merit, the NL should have picked Lowrie over Starlin Castro.

Aar0n Hill (2B Diamondbacks) – With Lowrie representing the Astros, Hill could have made the team over Altuve. Mr. Cycle’s .878 OPS is 75 points better than that of Altuve and 100 points better than that of any other NL second baseman.

Ernesto Frieri, Scott Downs (RP Angels) – Frieri has pitched 23 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out 40 since arriving in Anaheim. Downs has a 0.35 ERA in 26 innings after finishing at 1.34 last year. I’d certainly rather rely on those two for matchup purposes late in the game than either Chris Perez or Joe Nathan.

Josh Willingham (OF Twins) – Willingham has the AL’s 10th best OPS at .913, but he was a casuality of the fact that the AL is carrying three DHs in David Ortiz, Dunn and Billy Butler.

Paul Goldschmidt (1B Diamondbacks) – If anyone deserves to play nine innings in the All-Star Game, it’s Joey Votto. Not only is he the NL’s best hitter, but there just weren’t any great options to back him up. Bryan LaHair was chosen as the team’s other first basemen, even though his numbers have taken a big nosedive of late. Adam LaRoche was more deserving, even if his .251/.338/.506 line is nothing special. My preferred choice, though, would have been Goldschmidt, who has shaken off a rough start to hit .293/.369/.542 in 225 at-bats.

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.