The Marlins are nickel-and-diming their young players

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When I was a teenager working at the radio station, I made $3.35 an hour. That was a the minimum wage back then, and my employer was smart enough to realize that lots of kids would love my job, so there was no incentive to pay me any more than the minimum wage.

But then, one day, in early 1991, my boss came into the control room with a big smile on his face and said “Craig, I’m giving you a raise.”  I was ecstatic. It was almost a whole dollar an hour more!  I’d be making $4.25! When I got home after my shift and told my dad about it, he got a look on his face that was kind of like this, and said that they had to give me that raise because the minimum wage was going up to $4.25.  I suddenly felt less special.

I’m guessing that many of the Miami Marlins who are not yet arbitration-eligible feel the same way right about now.  Why? Ask Rosenthal and Morosi:

The minimum salary in the new collective-bargaining agreement increased from $414,000 to $480,000, giving even the lowest-paid players a handsome wage.  Baseball’s economic system, however, allows clubs to otherwise determine the salaries of players in the 0-to-3-year service class almost unilaterally.  The Miami Marlins, a team that spent lavishly on free agents this past offseason, are taking a particularly firm stand with those players, according to major-league sources.

The Marlins intend to automatically “renew” the contracts of virtually all their 0-to-3s at the new minimum, a move that might prompt the players’ union to file a grievance, contending that the team did not operate in good faith, sources say.

Typically, teams give moderate raises to those 0-3 players, putting them over the minimum salary. Do they have to? No. But so much in baseball is about respecting service time and seniority.  Where your locker is. When you take your cuts in the cage. Where you sit on the plane or the bus.  There’s an implicit understanding in baseball that, if you’re not a rookie, you get slightly better treatment than the rookies do.

That should, and typically does, extend to salaries too.  A few thousand here or there is nothing to the Marlins. Giving their pre-arb players “raises” that only keep up with the minimum wage is treating them like they’re nothing as well.  It’s bad form and I hope those cheapskates either change their mind about it or get all kinds of hell thrown at them by the union and the league.

UPDATE:  Rosenthal has updated his story with a quote from former Marlin Cody Ross.  He notes that this cheapskatery has a negative impact on the Marlins:

“That’s one of the main reasons I went to a hearing against them in my second year of arb,” said Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who beat the Marlins in arbitration in 2010, receiving $4.45 million after the team offered $4.2 million.

“I never forgot about them not giving me a raise ever as a 0-to-3 player. I didn’t think it was fair for me to make the same as a guy who comes up from minor league camp and makes the team.”

So, sure, if you want to litigate arbitration cases because your players hate you, by all means Mr. Loria, continue this practice.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.