The last replacement player is released

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The Diamondbacks have released reliever Ron Mahay after ten pretty awful outings in the minors.  Not a notable move in and of itself. But, on the assumption that Mahay does not catch on anywhere else, this will mark the end of the career of the last replacement player from the 1994-95 strike.

At least I think so.  The last time I researched this semi-thoroughly was early last year, and then we had Brendan Donnelly, Matt Herges, Mahay, Jamie Walker and Kevin Millar all trying to continue playing.  A couple of those guys spent some time on rosters in 2010, but none this year according to Baseball-Reference.com.

The replacement player affair was a strange chapter in baseball history. The gambit to suit up the replacements was announced in January of 1995. It began to fizzle terribly in spring training as managers — most notably Sparky Anderson — and one entire organization — the Orioles, whose owner had a strong pro-union legal career — refused to cooperate.  The strike itself was settled on April 2nd.  Baseball, with real players, began after a short delay to the season.

While most replacement players were never heard from again, a handful of them like Mahay fought their way back to the majors on the merits. They were never welcomed back officially — union membership and benefits were denied them — but some of them had distinguished baseball careers.

I’m a union supporter and I thus can’t say that I agree with what they did on a philosophical basis, but they were young and hungry and were being manipulated by the owners in the worst way.  They probably felt that, had they not crossed the picket line, they’d never get a chance in the game.  A game that, as it is, weeds out enough people.  It’s one of those situations that you can’t really condone, but you can certainly understand.

Hasta la vista, replacement players.  May you have ironic fun playing video games with pseudonymed likenesses of yourselves in your retirement.

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

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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.