A’s vs. Giants in the fight for San Jose: “We’re talking about two immoveable objects”

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Yahoo!’s Steve Henson gives us the state of the union over the MLB’s efforts to mediate the A’s-to-San Jose thing. The upshot: it’s ugly and there’s no easy solution, as the Giants aren’t even negotiating with the league over this, and some think they’ll sue if the A’s are allowed to move:

The Giants have attorneys close to their ownership group who made millions trying eminent domain cases. Owners agree not to sue MLB under any circumstances, but in that regard this could be ground-breaking if the A’s are allowed to break ground in San Jose.

“Some people believe the Giants would sue, other don’t think so,” the MLB executive said.

Call their bluff, Bud. Have your dormant committee release an actual report that outlines the actual need for the A’s to be in San Jose. Detail along with it the costs to the league if they don’t, the benefits to the league if they do and the costs to the Giants as well.  Then compare it to other potential relocation sites. I’m guessing the numbers point to it being a net gain for the A’s to be in San Jose as opposed to other markets, even if it costs the Giants some.

Point is: lay the groundwork for a compelling argument — both legally and on the public relations front — that the A’s moving to San Jose is the best for baseball overall.  Make a call that, even though it would cause short term strife for the Giants and other owners who fear for their territory rights, would, over time, pave the way for a more logical and economically beneficial arrangement of teams around population areas. Force the Giants to defend a stupid territorial system that promotes inefficiency.

Yes, this is a fantasy on my part. I don’t see Selig ever taking such a course of action.  Of course, given that he won’t, a franchise is being allowed to die on the vine, and I don’t know how anyone finds that acceptable.

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.