Ryan Howard: the Phillies’ seventh-best player

346 Comments

I felt bad that the Phillies game got rained out, thus depriving you guys of obsessing over them in the ATH comments, so I’ll just throw this little link out there for you. It’s an article by Sean Forman — the boss of Baseball-Reference.com — from yesterday’s New York Times. In it he offers the totally sensible yet always-inflammatory argument that, hey, Ryan Howard isn’t anywhere near as good as you guys think he is:

Based on sabermetric stats, Howard does not appear to be the elite hitter that his R.B.I. totals imply … Among N.L. batters who have qualified for the batting title entering the weekend, Howard’s .831 O.P.S. was just 23rd in the league. Among N.L. first basemen, he ranked seventh, below average for the 12 qualifying players …  If we combine hitting, defense and base running, WAR (wins above replacement) rated him as the seventh-best player on the Phillies this year.

Of course you can just take the “la la la I can’t hear you” approach and discount Forman’s arguments because they’re based in statistics as opposed to moxie or whatever you prefer. And I assume some of you will.  You will defend Howard as an elite player because he’s your first baseman and he’s a very likable guy. And hey, it’s not his fault that his RBI totals, borne of way more opportunities than others due to his excellent teammates, give the illusion that he is a better hitter than he really is.

But it doesn’t change the fact that, year after year, Howard is probably one of the most if not the most overrated players in the game.

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

Norm Hall/Getty Images
12 Comments

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.