Still too early to worry about faltering aces


The ERA leaderboard, organized greatest to least, is a bit of a shocker. At the top you’ll find both of the defending Cy Young award winners (David Price and R.A. Dickey), as well as Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Stephen Strasburg, among others. You’ll hear this a lot but it bears repeating: it’s still very early, so you can’t really trust the stats yet.

I went back to starters’ first  three starts in 2012 and found some surprising ERA outliers as well, then I researched how they fared over the rest of the season. A small selection of elite hurlers:

(ERA-3 = ERA through three starts; ERA-RoS = rest-of-season ERA)

Player ERA-3 ERA-RoS
Adam Wainwright 9.88 3.50
Max Scherzer 7.98 3.38
Josh Johnson 5.94 3.61
R.A. Dickey 5.71 2.50
CC Sabathia 5.59 3.14
Zack Greinke 5.09 3.33
David Price 4.20 2.43

This exercise can be repeated for any group of players. Just to name a few on the hitting side: Matt Holliday had a .602 OPS after the first two weeks last year, but bounced back and posted a .908 OPS the rest of the way. Jay Bruce went from .679 in the first two weeks to .859 the rest of the way. Giancarlo Stanton went from .642 in the first two weeks to 1.010 through the end of the season.

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.