Must-Click Link: playing baseball for $12K a year

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Ted Berg at USA Today has a good story today focusing on the life of a woefully underpaid minor leaguer: Kyle Johnson of the New York Mets.

Johnson is one of the dozens of players who have joined in the lawsuit against Major League Baseball alleging that the extraordinarily low wages paid to minor leaguers is violative of the Fair Labor Standards Act. That case has wound its way through court for a couple of years now and will continue to do so, but in the meantime the lives of minor leaguers who are not on the 40-man roster or who, like Johnson, did not receive large signing bonuses (he got $5,000) continue to be rough ones. Especially if you have a family to support.

As Berg notes, if each and every minor leaguer were given a $30,000 raise — which would take them from sub-minimum wage compensation to a level where one could at least reasonably live — it would cost each organization $7.5 million. While that’s a lot of money, it’s not hard to see examples of clubs practically throwing away that kind of money. More modest raises, which would at least get players off of shared rooms filled with air mattresses during the season and out of multiple part time jobs in the offseason, would obviously cost less.

Ultimately, though, this is less about any specific dollar amount than it is about the overall state of affairs in which ballclubs treat their minor leaguers as if they were seasonal help rather than employees and in which their wages have less actual purchasing power now than they had 40 years ago. That state of affairs is bad when it exists in the economy at large. It’s inexcusable in baseball, which is more flush with money than it ever has been.

Go read Ted’s story about Kyle Johnson. It’s today’s must-read.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.