Jay Gibbons finally gets what he asked for. Now will he hold up his end of the deal?

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The Dodgers designating Garret Anderson for assignment opened up a roster spot, and the man who took it was one Jay Gibbons.  Interesting story there.

Gibbons, you’ll recall, was a Mitchell Report All-Star, having been tied up with those “rejuvenation clinics” that supplied players with HGH.  He was released by the Orioles the following spring and failed to latch on anywhere else as spring turned to summer.  In June 2008, he wrote letters to all 30 MLB teams basically pleading for a job (see the sidebar).  In the letter he said this:

I respectfully and humbly request that you grant me the chance to play
for your organization. I am so willing to prove myself as a player, and a
person, that I will donate ALL of my minor league earnings to your
Club’s charity. In the event that I earn the right to play at the major
league level, I will gladly donate a significant sum to that same
charity.

The letter bore some immediate fruit, as Gibbons was signed by the independent Long Island Ducks. Soon after that the Milwaukee Brewers took a chance on him, but he never made the big club. The Marlins gave him a look in spring training in 2009 but released him and he spent the year with the independent Newark Bears.  This year he’s been at AAA Albuquerque all season.

But now he’s back in the majors.  Query: did he give his minor league salary to the Brewers’ charity in 2008 and the Dodgers’ in 2009?  Now that he’s been called up, is he donating a “significant sum” to the Dodgers’ charity?

I’m not saying he should be forced to — the Dodgers charity has it’s own problems, so I actually hope he doesn’t, and it has been a couple of years since he made that promise — but he did say he would.

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.