Chipper Jones sadly goes out with a whimper


Future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones just wrapped up one of the better final seasons in major league history, hitting .287/.377/.455 with 14 homers and 62 RBI at age 40.

Unfortunately, the all-too-brief postseason wasn’t nearly as kind. Jones botched a double-play ball, contributing to a three-run fourth inning, and went 1-for-5 at the plate as the Braves lost 6-3 to the Cardinals on Friday.

For Chipper, it has to be a painful way to end his career. He was up as the tying run in the bottom of the seventh, yet he grounded out on the first pitch he saw from Marc Rzepczynski. He did get one more chance in the ninth, and he was able to reach on an infield single after fighting off some quality fastballs from closer Jason Motte. He was stranded from there and then walked off the field as Braves fans started hurling trash again.

Of course, this was hardly all on Chipper. Dan Uggla and Andrelton Simmons also made key errors. Outside of catcher David Ross and maybe Freddie Freeman, no Brave had an outstanding game.

Still, as great as Chipper Jones’ career was — and he ranks as one of the game’s three best switch-hitters of all-time — he bares some responsibility for the Braves’ playoff struggles over the last decade. If tonight’s one-gamer counts as a “series,” then Chipper was on the losing side of the last six postseason series in which he played. His last great postseason series was the 2001 NLDS against the Astros, when he hit two homers in a three-game sweep. In 25  postseason games since, he hit .219 with three homers and 12 RBI in 96 at-bats.

Jones shouldn’t head into retirement with many regrets, but there can be no doubt that he’d love to have that one throw and the seventh-inning at-bat back tonight.

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.