The replacement players still not making the game

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High Heat.jpgI don’t play any baseball video games anymore, but there was a time when I played them pretty obsessively. I was particularly fond of High Heat Baseball 199. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why the closer for my Braves — Kerry Ligtenberg — wasn’t on it. It was some guy named “Terry Lyte.”  And who was this “Rob Mayday” in the A’s bullpen? Kotaku provided the background in an interesting post over the weekend:

Fifteen years ago, in the infancy of console sports simulations, 38 baseball players made a choice that would ensure they would never appear in a video game. Only five of them remain in the major leagues.

They crossed a picket line, an act of war to organized labor, by signing replacement player contracts with Major League clubs as the infamous 1994 players’ strike dragged into the spring of 1995. Just five of them logged major league service in 2009 and they’re all 38 years old or older. But the continued absence of their names in games is one of the last persistent vestiges of the baseball strike of 1994 and 1995.

The five remaining are Brendan Donnelly, Matt Herges, Ron Mahay — ah, that’s Rob Mayday! — Jamie Walker and Kevin Millar.  There used to be many more of course, and all of them went or still go by aliases on MLBPA-licensed games because they’re not members of the union, and they can never be members of the union because of their failed attempt at strike breaking.

I’m less interested in how this impacts video games than I am in what this means for union and labor issues, but the Kotaku posts covers most the bases in terms of the ethics of all of that too. The biggest question: should the union have let it go a long time ago and admitted the replacement players, or should they remain blackballed in order to set a firm precedent in the interests of union solidarity?

I don’t know that there is a right and a wrong answer here.  On the one hand I was brought up sympathetic to the union cause, so I understand the dynamics in play on the side of labor, and they apply even in a high-salaried shop like the MLBPA. On the other hand, these guys weren’t just handed jobs due to their strike-breaking, and after the dust settled they had to earn their way on to rosters just like anyone else, so it’s hard to say they haven’t done their time, as it were.

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Video: J.D. Martinez hits league-tying 23rd home run

Seattle Mariners v Boston Red Sox
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The Red Sox and Mariners left nothing on the table Friday night, going head-to-head in a series opener that eventually ended 14-10 in the Sox’ favor. Led by Steven Wright and Wade LeBlanc — neither of whom made it past the fifth inning — the teams combined for 34 hits and four home runs, including two moonshots from Seattle’s Nelson Cruz and a five-run rally that gave Boston the edge in the seventh.

In the sixth inning, however, the Red Sox were still scrambling to make up a four-run deficit. Left fielder J.D. Martinez cut it in half with one swing, pouncing on an 89.5-mph fastball from Seattle right-hander Nick Vincent and posting it to dead center field for a two-run shot.

The 427-foot blast was Martinez’s 23rd of the season, tying Mike Trout for the most home runs in the league this year. While he still has a ways to go before eclipsing the career-best 45-HR mark he set in 2017, he’s off to a strong start this season: Entering Friday’s game, the 30-year-old slugger was batting .315/.386/.623 with a 1.009 OPS and AL-leading 55 RBI in 308 PA. He finished Friday’s game 4-for-5 with five RBI, just one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Heading into the All-Star Break, both Martinez and Trout still have some competition for the home run title. Jose Ramirez is sitting at 22 homers, while Nelson Cruz and Khris Davis are tied at 20 apiece.