Brewers Braves Baseball

Stop being slaves to baseball’s stupid macho orthodoxy

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Just to review, my take on the Braves-Brewers thing last night is that while Carlos Gomez was certainly out of line, Brian McCann and the Braves were too and that they are the ones responsible for what should have been a minor thing turning into a fight that caused punches to be thrown and a player (Aramis Ramirez) to be hurt. McCann’s walking up the baseline to confront Gomez was pretty damn provocative and immature, frankly, and the playoff-bound Braves should be both smarter and better than that.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, Gomez made a full public apology for his behavior after the game. I’ve yet to hear McCann or his teammates do the same.

But the larger takeaway here is my continued amazement at the pro-Braves, pro-Brian McCann sentiments among commenters and Twitter folk.  The sentiments basically hold what a commenter said in this morning’s And That Happened:

Brian McCann was just acting the team leader on the last home stand of his 8 yr career on a team struggling to get going before the playoffs. The player quotes show the team loved the move. A blogger may not like making the stand but obviously you’ve not speaking for MLB players.

I can’t tell you how many people responded to me with some variation of this last night. “NO ballplayer would stand for Gomez’s taunting!” they say. “This is how it has always been in baseball!”  There’s an added dose of “How can you not defend the team you root for,” which is beyond stupid, but I’ve come to accept the fact that most fans have a double-standard when it comes to their team’s behavior compared to that of other teams.

As for the “team leader” jive, well, that’s pretty stupid too. A team leader doesn’t do things which harm his team’s chances to win games, and by instigating a fight that’s what McCann did. He should have been ejected and is lucky he wasn’t. Freddie Freeman was. Reed Johnson and McCann probably face suspensions now, which will further hurt the team at some point. All for what? To protect the Braves honor? Against what? Carlos Freakin’ Gomez? 

Fact is, if the Braves had just let Gomez taunt his head off, the only conversation afterward and into today would’ve been how childish and immature Carlos Gomez is. No one would’ve cared. No one would’ve thought less of the Braves. The only people who believe otherwise are the sorts of people who are far too hung up on honor and ego to begin with. The sorts of people who are so hung up on baseball’s hidebound unwritten rules and codes of conduct that they probably wake up each morning and say a brief prayer to a candlelit portrait of Tony La Russa embracing Chris Carpenter.

Spare me. Spare me the “no player would stand for that!” and the “you must not know anything about baseball if you think the Braves were out of line” baloney, tough guy. There are all sorts of things people do because they’ve always been done. That doesn’t make them right or proper or mature even if does make them something less than unexpected.

If you want to defend McCann and the Braves’ increasing fixation on the proper behavior by opponents when they hit home runs (see, Jose Fernandez and Bryce Harper) make an argument for such behavior being reasonable on the merits without reference to tradition. And if you do, tell me if you act like that — if you get in people’s faces, preach what is proper and what is not and push things to the point of fisticuffs — when you confront the abundant immaturity all of us see every day in real life.

And if you say that baseball is different and that baseball is not “real life” and is thus subject to its own rules, explain why that should be so.  Because I see no reason why it should be that way, even if everyone has always assumed that it is. And even if Brian McCann, Tony La Russa and whoever else protects these brain-dead codes says so.

Adams homers in 16th to lift Cardinals over Dodgers 4-3

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ST. LOUIS — Matt Adams homered in the 16th inning to lead the Cardinals to a 4-3 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night for St. Louis’ season-best fifth straight victory.

It was the second consecutive game that the Cardinals won in their final at-bat. They beat the Padres on Thursday after scoring a run in the ninth inning.

Adams homer came with one out off Bud Norris (5-9), who gave up six runs as a starter in an 8-1 loss at Washington on Wednesday.

Seth Maness (1-2) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief for St. Louis, which was playing its longest game of the season.

Jedd Gyorko hit a two-out homer off closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth to tie the game 3-3.

Justin Turner and Howie Kendrick homered for the Dodgers. Los Angeles has lost four of six. The red-hot Turner has seven homers and 17 RBI this month. He hit two homers in a 6-3 win over Washington on Thursday.

Turner blasted his career-high 18th homer of the season off Seung Hwan Oh in the ninth to break a 2-2 tie.

Corey Seager had four hits and drove in the first run of the game. He had hit in seven successive at-bats before flying out in the ninth.

Kendrick’s solo shot in the sixth tied the game 2-2. He has hit in 14 successive games trying Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon for the longest current streak in the majors.

Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed one hit and two runs over 6 1-3 innings, the longest of his four starts this season. He left with leg cramps. McCarthy struck out four and walked three.

St. Louis starter Michael Wacha allowed two runs on 10 hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked one.

Dodgers reliever Adam Liberatore recorded his 28th successive scoreless outing by retiring two of four batters in the seventh. He has not allowed a run in 41 of 42 appearances this season.

Minor League Players’ Wage Suit against Major League Baseball suffers a huge setback

The judge's gavel is seen in court room 422 of the New York Supreme Court at 60 Centre Street February 3, 2012. REUTERS/Chip East
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A judge handed minor leaguers looking to hold Major League Baseball liable for underpaying and exploiting them a huge setback today, ruling that the case cannot go forward as a class action. Minor leaguers who want to sue over their pay and treatment still can, but they’ll have to do it individually. The ruling saps the minor leaguers of their leverage, as Major League Baseball would likely be able to fend off individual cases which, by themselves, might only amount to several thousand dollars per claim.

The background: in 2014, former Miami Marlins player Aaron Senne sued Major League Baseball, Bud Selig, and three major league clubs claiming that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. He was later joined by former Royals minor leaguer Michael Liberto and Giants farmhand Oliver Odle. Eventually others joined and the suit had been expanded to 22 teams as defendants.

The upshot of the case is that, while the minor league season lasts only part of the year, players are required to do all sorts of things outside of merely playing games for which they are not compensated. Training, meetings, appearances and the like. When all of that time is added up, the players claim, their already low salaries are effectively far below minimum wage in violation of the law. Major League Baseball has countered this by claiming that minor leaguers are basically part time seasonal workers — like landscapers and pool boys — who are not subject to federal labor laws.

Last year the judge gave the case conditional certification, allowing the players to try to establish that it should go forward as a class action. This would streamline the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective and give them the power of collective action by asserting hundreds or more similar cases into one proceeding. The judge’s ruling today, however, was that the cases really weren’t factually similar and thus collective action was not appropriate because figuring out how many hours each player worked and what was required of him varied too greatly among the players.

From his order:

“The difficulties associated with determining what activities constitute ‘work’ in the context of winter training are compounded by the fact that there appear to be no official records documenting these activities. Because it may be impossible to determine from official records the types of conditioning activities in which the players engaged, membership in the state classes based on winter training would depend largely upon the players’ ability to remember, with a reasonable amount of detail, what they did during the off-season (often for multiple years and for many, several years in the past) to stay fit.”

The judge said that, in light of this, each case would be unique and would require “individualized inquiries” to find damages and liability. That phrase –“individualized inquiries” — constitutes magic words which sink would-be class actions. If a company overcharges all of its customers by $8 due to an error repeated a million times, it’s easy to look at one set of facts and judge them together. If you had to look at a million different wrongs, that’s no class action. And so it is not a class action for the players.

As many courts who have dealt with these sorts of cases have noted, for many plaintiffs, a class action is the only practical method of adjudicating Fair Labor Standards Act cases because individual plaintiffs are frequently unable to bear the costs of separate trials. They are, by definition, (allegedly) exploited workers. They’re not going to be able to pay legal costs and fight off a multi-billion dollar business in order to collect the few thousand dollars they were underpaid. At the same time, however, the defendants have rights too and, if the facts of each players’ treatment truly differ (e.g. the Yankees make their minor leaguers do more than the Brewers do) it’s not fair to bind one defendant’s defense to the acts of another.

So, where does this leave the players? Not dead. Not yet, at least. Their claims have not been dismissed on the merits. They have only been denied the right to act collectively. The individual plaintiffs can now file separate lawsuits against their former employers and Major League Baseball under the same theories. It would be harder to land a big blow in such a scenario, but if enough do, it could end up being death by a thousand cuts for the clubs and the league. Their legal fees might go up and, eventually, if they lose enough of these cases, more might be filed. There are a lot of former minor leaguers, after all, and once there’s some blood in the water, more of them — and their lawyers — may enter the frenzy. Decertification is certainly a win for the league right now, but it’s not necessarily a permanent win.

There are likewise some other quasi-collective forms this case could take such as multi-district litigation in which the cases, while individual, are coordinated in a loose fashion. That could lead to some efficiencies for suing players even if it’s not as robust as a class action.

We’ve written quite a bit about minor league pay and treatment in this space by now, so you probably know where we stand on it. We believe that minor leaguers are exploited and underpaid and we believe that Major League Baseball has been happy to exploit and underpay them for some time. Ultimately we believe that this state of affairs cannot and will not persist and that eventually, somehow, baseball will either see fit to pay its workers fairly or, more likely, will be forced to do so by a court or by collective bargaining of some fashion.

Today, however, was a big setback for the minor leaguers. Today’s ruling will give Major League Baseball and its clubs more time and more comfort in which to underpay them. There’s no doubt about it.