A series of very sad tweets by Jose Canseco

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Jose Canseco has taken to Twitter the past few days, talking about his desire to play baseball again. Among the more notable tweets:

  • I can dh for any major league team and lead the league in home runs,just give me the chance
  • I will show everyone that steroids are completely overrated once I get the chance to play aqgain.all I need is the chance
  • If a team would give me the chance I would not let them down.baseball is my life,I miss the game its part of me,its my addiction
  • I will not give up the dream of playing in the majors again,I just cant
  • If you love something and it defines you ,never give it up
  • I dream about playing almost every night.when I wake up and realize I am not anymore that’s when the nightmare begins
  • I am and will always be just simply a basball player,my tomb stone will just say. Baseball.
  • Why is everyone so negative,I will play again
  • Life is about beleivinging in something

Those last two came after many began to mock him in reply.

I won’t mock Jose Canseco. Not for this anyway.  He’s being honest about how he feels and there’s no crime in that.

But it’s hard not to pity him.  Because even if he had never become the poster child for PEDs in baseball and even if he had not exposed his former teammates and colleagues in his books, Canseco would not have a chance to play baseball again.  He’s 46-years-old. He hasn’t played truly competitive baseball for a decade. It’s not happening, and wouldn’t happen even if Canseco’s wasn’t blackballed from the game as he frequently claims.  He’s too old. He may be in physical shape, but he’s no longer in baseball shape. Baseball, even at its most meritocratic, is unforgiving in that way.

Canseco’s post-baseball life and career shows how extreme a gulf there is between that at which he excelled — putting a hurt on a baseball — and that to which he is left. Celebrity. Infamy. Based on some of his late night tweets I even imagine loneliness.  All players have adjustment problems to some degree or another, but Canseco’s seem quite extreme.

I hope that I’m just reading too much into some random tweets.  But if not, I hope Canseco gets some help. Because he sounds like he’s crying out for it.

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.