City of San Jose could sue San Francisco Giants


Well, this is interesting. San Jose has been an oft-discussed new locale for the Oakland Athletics if they were to move, but the San Francisco Giants have been a thorn in their paw, so to speak. San Jose may be ready to flip the script.

Sam Liccardo, the San Jose CityCouncil member whose district includes most of the proposed downtown ballpark property, wants the city to sue the Giants. They continue to claim territorial rights to the South Bay and, empowered by Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption, have used that claim to block the A’s quest at every turn.

Liccardo’s strategy, if affirmed by his council colleagues, could be a game-changer. It would be a cunning reverse twist on the Giants’ own veiled (and nonveiled) threats to pursue legal action against San Jose and other entities if the A’s are allowed to move south.

“The concern that seems to be broadly discussed is about litigation on behalf of the San Francisco Giants,” Liccardo said the other day at his City Hall office. “But the San Francisco Giants should become concerned about the threat of a lawsuit by the city of San Jose.”

Liccardo goes on to say that a “conservative” estimate of the financial benefit of San Jose hosting a baseball team would be in the neighborhood of $30 million over 30 years.

Oakland has finished in the bottom-five among all 30 Major League teams in average attendance dating back to 2006, including finishing dead last in 2009 and 2011. Their ballpark, the Coliseum, is 46 years old and is the last remaining multi-purpose stadium as it plays home to both the A’s and the Raiders. A move, which would include a new stadium, could provide a significant windfall to one of baseball’s poorer teams.

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.