Houston Astros v Baltimore Orioles

No, the All-Star vote is not a referendum on Biogenesis-connected players

33 Comments

The first batch of voting results for the All-Star game will be out today. And as Bob Nightengale notes, there are a lot of players who, based on performance, should be All-Star candidates but who may not get much support. Specifically, the Biogenesis-connected players like Ryan Braun, Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. All of whom are having great years, but all of whom served PED suspensions last year.

Each of them had different circumstances involving their use of performance-enhancing drugs. All served suspensions. They apologized. And, soon, we will all find out whether they’ll truly be forgiven . . . Considering the All-Star Game is a showcase for the fans, who determine the starting lineup, perhaps this will be a barometer for whether fans are softening their stance toward PEDs.

Eh, no. Because that implies that fans have ever considered performance on the field n the first half of the season as the be-all, end-all of All-Star Game worthiness. Maybe the fan vote has hewed closer to rewarding worthy first-half players in recent years, but there are still a plethora of reasons fans will or will not vote for a guy. A lot of it is totally disconnected from performance and has more to do with how often the team reminds fans to vote, how strong the ballpark’s cell phone reception is and what kind of attendance the team had in mid-April when MLB starts pushing All-Star voting for some damn reason.

More fundamentally — and this may blow your mind — fans often vote for stars when they vote for All-Stars. Derek Jeter will likely be the starting AL shortstop. This is not because of his performance. It’s not because fans will be punishing Alexi Ramirez for some sort of transgression the rest of us have missed. It’s because he’s Derek Jeter and Derek Jeter is a big star and he’s famous and Alexi Ramirez ain’t. Which is fine, because it’s a fan vote and they can vote for any reason they want to. Often times, being famous or compelling or playing for a popular team matters a hell of a lot more than anything.

Ryan Braun had always been famous and popular before the PED stuff, so sure, I imagine if suddenly becomes an All-Star also-ran it’s in large part because of his now-sullied reputation. Jhonny Perlata could get a surge of support because he now plays for the Cardinals, not because fans have suddenly softened their stance on PEDs. Guys like Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz might get soft support because of the drugs or it could be just as much a function of them being Melky Cabrera and Nelson Cruz. Which, in terms of star power puts them a lot closer to Alexi Ramirez than it does Derek Jeter.

Poring over All-Star voting is fun to some, but mostly pointless. Trying to draw definitive conclusions about any specific fan opinion from them, however, is a fool’s errand.

Minor League Baseball established a political action committee to fight paying players more

DURHAM, NC - JULY 28:  The Chicago White Sox play the Most Valuable Prospects during the championship game of the 2011 Breakthrough Series at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park on July 28, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  Most Valuable Prospects won 17-2 over the Chicago White Sox. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images
5 Comments

Josh Norris of Baseball America reports that Minor League Baseball has established a political action committee to continue fighting against a lawsuit brought by a group of former minor league players seeking increased wages and back pay.

You may recall that, earlier this year, two members of Congress — Republican Brett Guthrie of Kentucky and Democrat Cheri Bustos of Illinois — introduced H.R. 5580 in the House of Representatives. Also known as the “Save America’s Pastime Act,” H.R. 5580 sought to change language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In doing so, minor leaguers wouldn’t have been covered under a law that protects workers who are paid hourly. Minor League Baseball publicly endorsed the bill. Bustos withdrew her support after receiving widespread criticism.

The whole thing started when Sergio Miranda filed a lawsuit in 2014, accusing Major League Baseball teams of colluding to eliminate competition. The lawsuit challenged the reserve clause, which binds minor leaguers into contracts with their teams for seven years. That suit was dismissed in September 2015. However, another lawsuit was filed in October last year — known as Senne vs. the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball — alleging that minor leaguers were victims of violations of state and federal minimum wage laws. Senne et. al. suffered a setback this summer when U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco dismissed class certification. That essentially meant that the players could not file a class-action lawsuit. As a result, the players’ legal team led by Garrett Broshuis amended their case to only include players who play in one league for an entire season. As Norris notes, that means that the included players’ experiences are uniform enough for inclusion in a class-action lawsuit.

So that’s why Minor League Baseball established a political action committee (PAC). A PAC, for the unfamiliar, is an organization created with the intent of raising money to defeat a particular candidate, legislation, or ballot initiative. In other words, they’re getting serious and want Capitol Hill’s help.

Minor League Baseball president Stan Brand said, “Because of procedurally what has happened in the Congress and the difficulties in getting legislation, we’ve got to adjust to that. We were lucky. We had the ability because of the depth of the relationships and involvement in the communities to not have to worry about that. And now we do, I think. The PAC . . . gives us another tool to re-enforce who we are and why we’re important.”

Norris mentions in his column that Phillies minor league outfielder Dylan Cozens received the Joe Baumann Award for leading the minors with 40 home runs. That came with an $8,000 prize. Cozens said that the prize was more than he made all season. The minor league regular season spanned from April 7 to September 5, about six months. Athletes aren’t paid in the other six months which includes offseason training and spring training. They are also not paid for participating in instructional leagues and the Arizona Fall League. Minor leaguers lack union representation, which is why their fight for fair pay has been such an uphill battle.

Report: White Sox, Nationals making “strong progress” on a Chris Sale deal

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox deliivers the ball against the Tampa Bay Rays at U.S. Cellular Field on September 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
8 Comments

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the White Sox and Nationals are making “strong progress” on a trade involving ace Chris Sale. Most reports coming out on Monday night suggest that a deal isn’t likely to be consummated until Tuesday at the earliest.

Sale, 27, has pitched in the majors over parts of seven seasons. He owns a career 74-50 record with a 3.00 ERA and a 1,244/260 K/BB ratio in 1,110 innings. The lefty will earn $12 million in 2017, then has a club option for 2018 worth $12.5 million with a $1 million buyout as well as a 2019 club option worth $13.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Relative to what he would earn if he were a free agent today, Sale’s remaining salary is a bargain.

The Nationals would likely have to part with several of their top prospects. MLB Pipeline lists pitcher Lucas Giolito, outfielder Victor Robles, and pitcher Reynoldo Lopez in the club’s top-three.

Adding Sale would arguably give the Nationals claim to the best starting rotation in baseball as he would join 2016 NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg.

There are other teams in the mix for Sale. The Red Sox and Astros have also talked with the White Sox about the lefty’s services.