Red Sox prospect has eye on BCS title game

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We don’t do a whole lot on college football here at HBT — for obvious reasons — but this story from MLB.com’s Peter Gammons was too good to pass up.

Gammons writes a nice profile on Red Sox prospect Brandon Jacobs, who committed to play football at Auburn before his senior year of high school in Liburn, Ga., before deciding – like many of us in this space – that baseball was his true love. Jacobs, who at 6-1, 225, was called a “tailback in a fullback’s body,” could have been playing behind Cam Newton in Monday night’s championship game against Oregon. Instead, he’ll be watching the game in television.

“I have no regrets,” Jacobs said. “I don’t miss [football]. I love baseball, I had a great experience playing in Lowell [New York-Penn League] this past summer, where the ballpark was packed every night.

“A lot went into my decision to sign with Boston. I thought a lot about the longevity of the career, the injury risk. I really thought baseball was what I was going to play in the long run, and why wait four years to get started. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m very pleased with the decision I made.”

Smart kid, though it probably didn’t hurt that he signed a deal in the $800,000 range, well above slot for a 10th round draft pick.

Another interesting part of Gammons’ story is that the Red Sox employ a consistent strategy of drafting multi-sport stars – players other teams are scared to waste picks on – then luring them to baseball with above-slot signing bonuses. They did it with Jacobs, as well as Casey Kelly, Ryan Kalish and Will Middlebrooks, all of whom had football scholarships in hand when they signed with Boston.

As far as Jacobs and his baseball skills go, Gammons quotes one scout as comparing him to a young Kevin Mitchell, raw but athletic. In 72 games in the low minors, he has a .242/.310/.404 line with six home runs and 31 RBIs. He has a long way  to go, but does not regret his decision to play baseball.

“I’ll be watching [Monday],” said Jacobs, “but, to be honest, I’m more excited about Spring Training. I’m a baseball player. I’d love to be there in Arizona, but I’d rather be playing in Boston someday.”

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Minor League Baseball teams sold over $70 million in merchandise in 2017

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Every so often here, we discuss the criminally low pay of Minor League Baseball players. Most of them make less than $7,500 a year, which includes the regular season as well as spring training, playoffs, and offseason training. The abysmal pay forces minor leaguers to eat unhealthy food, live in cramped quarters, and forego consistent, quality sleep, among other things.

What makes this situation worse is that Minor League Baseball is a huge money-maker for their parent teams in Major League Baseball. Josh Norris of Baseball America reported yesterday that Minor League Baseball teams sold $70.8 million in merchandise in 2017. That represented a 3.6 percent increase over the previous record set in 2016. This is just merchandise. Now think about concession and ticket sales.

Minor League Baseball COO Brian Earle said, “Minor League Baseball team names and logos continue to be among the most popular in all of professional sports, and our teams have made promoting their brand a priority for their respective organizations. The teams have done a tremendous job of using their team marks and logos to build an identity that is appealing to fans not just locally, but in some cases, globally as well.”

You may recall that Major League Baseball had been lobbying Congress to pass legislation exempting minor league players from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Doing so classified baseball players as seasonal workers, which means they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. That legislation passed earlier this year. Minor League Baseball generates profits hand over fist and it is now legally protected from having to share that with the labor that produced it.

Many points of divergence led us to this point, but the question is how do we change it? Minor leaguers are routinely taken advantage of because they don’t have a union. Compare the minors in baseball to the minors in hockey, where minor leaguers have a union. As SB Nation’s Marc Normandin pointed out last month, the minimum salary for American Hockey League players is $45,000 and the average salary is $118,000. They receive a playoff share of around $20,000, and receive health insurance that covers themselves as well as their families. Furthermore, the minor league hockey players’ per diem is $74, about three times as much as minor league baseball players’ per diem of $25.

Major League Baseball and its 30 teams have shown no inclination towards treating minor league players simply out of moral obligation or good will, so the minor leaguers need union coverage to force their conditions to improve. This could be as simple as the MLBPA expanding its coverage to the minor leagues because, after all, some minor leaguers do become major leaguers, right? Or the minor leaguers could themselves create a union. It’s easy to say, but tougher to do, which is why they still don’t have a union.

At any rate, every fan of baseball should be enraged when they read that Minor League Baseball keeps setting records year after year when it comes to selling hats and t-shirts, then refuses to share any of that wealth with the labor responsible for it. It’s morally reprehensible.