A note on awards season


I had some fun with the Ted Williams post this morning, but I would like to make one observation about the upcoming MVP debates and awards season in general:  they matter and they don’t. And that’s not necessarily a contradiction.

Remember that time when the voters got the MVP vote wrong and we all died? God, that sucked.  Oh, wait, that didn’t happen. Because no one is truly harmed if the MVP voters screw up. Amazingly, that even held when Alan Trammell was ripped off in 1987, and I was pretty sure that was going to kill me. In that sense, no, the awards debates don’t truly matter.

At the same time, the opposite reaction — that since it’s just baseball awards these debates are not even worth having — is also dumb.  We’re baseball fans. Arguing about awards is the best possible way to spend one’s time when actual games aren’t on. What the hell else should we do? Pretend there isn’t interesting baseball stuff to consider? Act like we’re above having a time-worn bar argument about which player is better than another? Jeez, that would make us friggin’ communists.

Where to find the balance? I think it’s just like anything else: we should jut be suspicious of extremists. People who think the wrong guy winning is tragedy of some kind are silly. If you’re a Mike Trout guy, the world is not going to end if Miguel Cabrera wins the award and vice-versa.  At the same time, however, people who tell me that it’s not worth even engaging in the exercise are off base too.  Go not have fun someplace else, please.

Anyway, I’ve not sat down and considered any award fully. I’m seriously leaning Mike Trout for the MVP, of course, but I could theoretically have my mind changed. And if that doesn’t happen I’m not gonna consider it an atrocity if Cabrera wins.  It’s just baseball.

But dude, if a bunch of writers try to argue that base running and defense is some sort of esoteric sabermetric invention, I will take up arms and fight until either death or glory is achieved.

Wait … gotta re-read my own post again.  Damn.

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.