Jim Leyland, Hall of Famer?


In the wake of news that Jim Leyland is stepping down as Tigers manager after eight seasons I wondered how strong his Hall of Fame case is if he’s headed for retirement at age 68.

First things first, Leyland has 1,769 wins to rank 15th all time among MLB managers. Of the 14 managers with more wins, nine are already in the Hall of Fame and at least three others (Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre) seem likely to be in Cooperstown eventually as well. That leaves Gene Mauch and Lou Piniella as the only managers with more wins than Leyland without a (probable) spot in the Hall of Fame.

However, of the 15 managers with 1,700 or more career wins Leyland has the fourth-worst winning percentage at .506, ahead of only Connie Mack, Bucky Harris, and Mauch. He also has “only” one World Series title, although Leyland’s teams also lost twice in the World Series and he made the playoffs a total of eight times in 22 years as manager. He won three straight division titles with the Pirates in the early 1990s and three straight division titles with the Tigers in the early 2010s, and in between won a World Series with the Marlins.

MORE: Who replaces Jim Leyland in Detroit?

At this point in baseball history trying to predict which great players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame is difficult enough, so doing the same for managers could be really tough. With that said, it’s pretty clear that Leyland has a strong Hall of Fame case, but seems nearly as clear that he’s behind La Russa, Torre, and Cox among this generation’s most successful skippers, perhaps putting him in a group with managers like Davey Johnson, Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, Terry Francona, and Piniella.

Is that enough to warrant a spot in Cooperstown? I’d tend to lean yes, but I’m admittedly a Leyland fan and it’s definitely not an open-and-shut case either way unless the Hall of Fame starts inducting a lot more managers than it has in recent years.

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.