The draft: is a hard slotting system around the corner?

Leave a comment

The KC Star’s Sam Mellinger has a post up today about the broken system of compensating draft picks in both football and baseball.  You’ve heard most of the arguments and examples before, but this part is worth remembering:

Both sports are approaching the end of their current collective bargaining agreements. This is scheduled to be the final NFL season with a salary cap, and there are significant rumblings on each side about a potential work stoppage.

Baseball’s CBA is scheduled to end after the 2011 season. Many baseball insiders on both sides of the negotiation say the players are willing to institute some sort of slotting system for draft picks, but need to get something back from owners in return.

It won’t take much in return, I’d wager.  Most people don’t realize this, but draftees aren’t union members — you don’t become eligible to join the union until you’re on a 40-man roster — yet the members have the power to negotiate the terms of the draft.  As such, giving the owners a hard slotting system doesn’t truly take anything off the union’s plate.

Sure, they don’t want to be seen as laying down to ownership so they’ll demand something in return, but make no mistake: current players aren’t fans of rapidly-escalating amateur signing bonuses, and the sorts of things they’ll likely take from ownership in exchange for a hard slotting system fall on the “better lunch meat on the postgame spread” end of the spectrum than on the end where things of real value reside.  It’s certainly not work-stoppage material.

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

Norm Hall/Getty Images
12 Comments

In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.