Craig Calcaterra

Blogger at NBC Sport.com's HardballTalk. Recovering litigator. Rake. Scoundrel. Notorious Man-About-Town.
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And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Hi folks. Sorry about being gone for a few days. I was in New York, a place for which the phrase “nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” was invented. It was nice to visit. I don’t want to live there. It’s like the people who say that know me.

Anyway, here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Nationals 4, Indians 1: In nine of yesterday’s 15 games the losing team scored one run. Just warning you now, that’s gonna make for a lot of “[pitcher] tossed [X] [Y]-hit innings, allowing only [Z] runs . . .” summaries, with X being a number 6 or greater, Y being a number 6 or lower and Z being a value of 1 or 0. There could be a hit caveats addressed via “scattering” subroutine, but we’ll deal with that on a case-by-case basis. I realize that’s a lot of info you don’t need, but as I’ve been trying to automate “And That Happened” so it will live on forever, even past my death, these are the sorts of challenges I deal with. Anyway, Stephen Strasburg is the first to be plugged into this equation, having allowed zero runs on three hits over seven innings against the Tribe. He picked up his 14th win.

Marlins 11, Phillies 1: Here it was Adam Conley, tossing shutout ball into the seventh while scattering eight hits. He obviously had offensive help too, with Giancarlo Stanton providing enough for them to win the game with a first inning two-run homer followed by a lot of piling on. This from a team that was in an offensive drought just a couple of days ago.

Padres 8, Blue Jays 4Adam Rosales hit a two-run home run, Alex Dickerson and Brett Wallace each hit solo shots. The Padres have tied an NL record for consecutive games in which someone hit a homer. Because, of course, when you think “Padres” you think “power-hitting accomplishments.”

Tigers 4, Red Sox 3: I watched part of this game at a bar in LaGuardia waiting to fly home yesterday. Living in non-MLB cities for one’s entire adult life makes one forget that there are places where you don’t have to specifically ask for them to turn on a baseball game on the bar TV. Seriously, Columbus, Ohio sports bars will put on televised sports talk shows in which someone may mention college football in passing before showing the ballgame. All the better considering that the sound is off. And there’s nothing better than going into a bar in October and seeing five TVs with the random second-tier Thursday night Big West game and one with the frickin’ World Series on it. Anyway: Michael Fulmer pitched well until he ran out of gas on a hot afternoon, allowing the Sox to tie it late, but Miguel Cabrera saved the day with a ninth inning homer.

Rays 3, Dodgers 1: Matt Moore allowed one run in six and two-thirds but it was unearned thanks to it coming on a throwing error during a stolen base attempt. That error was by the catcher, Luke Maile, but he atoned with an RBI double in the fourth. Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer just before that.

Reds 2, Giants 1: Dan Straily outdueled Madison Bumgarner, allowing one run in seven and two-thirds to MadBum’s two — one earned — in eight. Jay Bruce‘s seventh inning homer broke the 1-1 tie in the seventh.

Rockies 3, Orioles 1: Jon Gray with one run over seven, allowing five hits. A pair of sixth inning homers from Nick Hundly and David Dahl were all the offense he needed.

Pirates 10, Mariners 1: Gerrit Cole pitched a three-hit, one run Maddux, needing only 94 pitches to do it. Andrew McCutchen and Jung Ho Kang each drove in four runs. It was pretty close until the seventh, but by then Cole could just throw it down the middle and dare the M’s to hit something. They didn’t.

Cardinals 5, Mets 4: Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong each hit RBI doubles in the ninth to rally the Cards from a run down. The Mets had their own rally in the seventh inning, scoring three to take the lead, capped by a Yoenis Cespedes homer off Adam Wainwright, but it was all for naught. This was Jeurys Familia‘s first blown save in almost a year. His streak began on July 30, 2015. Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact.

Cubs 8, White Sox 1: Another game that was close until late, at which point the Cubs broke out the boomsticks, getting homers from Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, whose bomb was a grand slam. Aroldis Chapman made his Cubs debut in a non-save situation. He struck out two of the three batters he faced and hit 103 on the gun. If the past few days have shown us anything it’s that Chapman tends to do best when he lets his pitching do the talking

Athletics 6, Rangers 4: Khris Davis homered twice, because that’s what Khris Davis does. This was his fifth multi-homer game this year. He has ten in his two full + two partial seasons. Both he and Coco Crisp hit two-run homers off of Matt Bush in the eighth. I guess if you’re Bush you can always say that whatever happened on the baseball field isn’t the worst thing to ever happen to you, but still, bad day for him.

Diamondbacks 8, Brewers 1: Yasmany Tomas had two homers and drove in five while Archie Bradley allowed one run over seven innings. The Brewers committed five errors, three by right fielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis and two by shortstop Jonathan Villar. I’m sure that made Craig Counsell super happy.

Braves 9, Twins 7: Freddie Freeman homered, doubled and drove in five in a game in which he reached base five times. After the game Major League Baseball’s scheduler was put on trail in front of an international tribunal at The Hague for putting this series on the calendar.

Astros 4, Yankees 1: Lance McCullers allowed one run over six and struck out ten. Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer in the Astros’ three-run third. The homer broke an 0-for-29 skid for Rasmus. Or briefly interrupted a 1-for__ skid if he goes on another slump. Baseball is weird like that. It never ends and it allows you to frame anything in almost any way.

Royals 7, Angels 5: The Angels took a lead into the bottom of the seventh, but Kansas City scored six runs in the seventh and eighth. It wasn’t the longball, though: Raul Mondesi hit two infield singles in those innings which plated three thanks to throwing errors and the inherit chaos of speed. The first one was a bunt single and it was Mondesi’s first big league hit. It occasioned an over six minute replay delay, however, as Mike Scioscia thought Modesi ran out of the baseline and interfered with the throw to first. When he lost the replay he protested the game. Afterward he said “I would not have protested if I was not 100 percent correct on this.” Guess we’ll see.

Baseball Hall revamps veterans’ committees

Associated Press
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COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) Baseball’s Hall of Fame has again revamped its veterans’ committees, attempting to increase consideration for more contemporary players, managers, umpires and executives.

Under the change announced Saturday by the Hall’s board of directors, there will be separate committees for Today’s Game (1988-2016), Modern Baseball (1970-87), Golden Days (1950-69) and Early Baseball (1871-1949). Today’s Game and Modern Baseball will vote twice every five years, Golden Days once every five years and Early Baseball once every 10 years.

“There are twice as many players in the Hall of Fame who debuted before 1950 as compared to afterward, and yet there are nearly double the eligible candidates after 1950 than prior,” Hall chair Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement. “Those who served the game long ago and have been evaluated many times on past ballots will now be reviewed less frequently.”

Today’s Game will vote in 2016, `18, `21, and `23, and Modern Baseball in 2017, `19, `21 and `23. Golden Days will vote in 2020 and `25, and Early Baseball in 2020 and `30. The Hall’s Historical Overview Committee will decide which committee will consider those who span eras, based on the time or place of their most indelible impression.

Since 2010, the Hall had established three veterans committees: Pre-Integration Era (1871-1946), Golden Era (1947-72) and Expansion Era (1973-2016). No one was elected by the Pre-Integration Era committee in December.

In addition, the Hall eliminated the one-year waiting period between a player’s last appearance on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot and his veterans committee debut for consideration. The Hall also said active executives 70 or older may be given consideration, up from 65.

Committees will remain at 16 people, with a vote of at least 75 percent needed for election. The ballot size will be 10 for each committee; it had been 12 for Expansion Era and 10 for the others.

The BBWAA votes on players who have been retired for at least five years and no more than 15. Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza are to be inducted Sunday.

The Hall also changed some of the rules for the Ford C. Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball.” The committee making the annual decision will consider a three-year cycle of Current Major League Markets (team-specific announcers) for the 2017 award, National Voices for 2018 and Broadcasting Beginnings (early team voices and pioneers) for 2019.

Since 2013, the Frick’s three-year cycle had been High Tide Era (mid-1980s to present), Living Room Era (mid-1950s to mid-1980) and Broadcasting Dawn Era (before mid-1950s).

The criteria will be “commitment to excellence, quality of broadcasting abilities, reverence within the game, popularity with fans, and recognition by peers” instead of “longevity; continuity with a club; honors, including national assignments such as the World Series and All-Star Games; and popularity with fans.”

The Frick ballot size will be reduced from 10 to eight, and the three ballot spots previously determined by fan voting will be decided by historians.

Ozzie Smith, inducted to the Hall in 2002, was voted to the Hall’s board of directors.

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

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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.