Cubs analyst Todd Hollandsworth slams Aramis Ramirez

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Whether’s it’s Manny, Hanley, Ramon or now Aramis, slamming a Ramirez is simply the in thing to do in baseball these days.

Cubs analyst Todd Hollandsworth, who works in the studio for Comcast Sportsnet, decided to take on Aramis Ramirez on “The McNeil and Spiegel Show” this morning.  The Chicago Tribune has the quotes:

When you’ve got your best player — he’s your best hitter, we’ve watched it for years now — and you can’t seem to have a positive effect on the guys around you in your clubhouse, getting them to step up or play to a different level, it’s just hard for me to swallow, especially when you’re being paid to be that guy.

Then you bring into question effort and that’s one thing in the game of baseball that really is inexcusable. One hundred percent effort all the time, there’s really no reason for you not to have 100 percent effort. He’s got impressionable kids around him right now: Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, these kids are growing up, they’re watching it and you know what, they’re not getting any better.

How much better are they supposed to get, Todd?  Barney has performed better as a rookie than his minor league numbers suggested he would.   Castro made the All-Star team as a 21-year-old sophomore.  If Hollandsworth is saying that they haven’t gotten any better from April through August, then maybe he has a point.  But who makes judgments based on such things?

Ramirez has taken more than his fair share of criticism this year.  He got off to a terrible start, he opted out after being asked to the All-Star Game as a last-minute replacement and he decided to use his no-trade clause rather than accept a trade that might help the Cubs in 2012 and beyond.

Yet, here he is in mid-August with 21 homers and 71 RBI.  In a year in which pretty much every NL third baseman has gotten hurt, he’s played in 110 games and posted an .830 OPS.  The only third basemen with higher OPSs are Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Youkilis and Alex Rodriguez, and two of those guys have missed big chunks of the season.

Maybe Ramirez could be a bigger influence in the clubhouse, but the Cubs knew exactly what kind of person he was when they re-signed him after the 2006 season.  It was the second big contract they gave him, and he’s lived up to it with his play on the field.  To suggest that he’s the problem just doesn’t make any sense at all.

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.