Giants send Brandon Belt back to the minors … again

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Brandon Belt got off to a slow start with the Giants, but the 23-year-old rookie hit .324 with a 1.011 OPS in 43 games after being sent back to Triple-A and San Francisco’s starting first baseman, Aubrey Huff, is hitting .243 with a .665 OPS.

You’d think that would convince the Giants to give Belt a legitimate chance to unseat Huff down the stretch, but instead they kept Belt on the bench for the past couple weeks and then demoted him back to the minors yesterday to make room on the roster for Mark DeRosa coming off the disabled list.

There’s nothing left for Belt to prove in the minors, where he’s hit .337 with a 1.036 OPS at Double-A and .300 with a .998 OPS at Triple-A, but he’s never going to prove himself in the majors unless the Giants actually give him an extended opportunity. They haven’t and apparently won’t, at least not this season.

Or as Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News put it:

So it appears the Giants are going to ride it out with Aubrey Huff at first base. After covering this organization for eight years, I can’t say I’m surprised. Hey, I just report the facts. You’re free to opine from there. Without profanity, please.

That’s about as close as a beat reporter will come to letting readers know he’s dumb-founded by a move.

Huff was a big part of the Giants’ championship last season, but he’s been one of MLB’s least productive first basemen this season and is 34 years old. Re-signing Huff to a two-year, $22 million deal was a mistake made in the euphoria of a World Series win and that contract along with his veteran-ness is now keeping him in the lineup ahead of a far more promising player.

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.