Marlins play dead as Phillies complete three-game sweep

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Is anyone involved with the Marlins even trying anymore?

Ownership isn’t. The team played with just 12 position players today, even though the it’s September and rosters can be expanded to 40.

Ozzie Guillen isn’t. Perhaps in protest of the limited roster he’s getting to work with, he just went three straight games without pinch-hitting for a position player. He also did next to nothing to back up Justin Ruggiano after his left fielder was tossed following a particularly horrendous ball-strike sequence today.

The players may be, but beyond Ruggiano, it’s hard to tell.

The Marlins were tied 1-1 in the top of the seventh today when John Buck walked to start the top of the inning against Cliff Lee. Time to manufacture a run, right? Nope. Donnie Murphy flied out to right, bringing up the pitcher’s spot. Josh Johnson might have had one inning left in him at the time, but certainly no more than that. It would have made a lot of sense to go to the bench and try to score that run.

Well, at least, it would have made a lot of sense had the Marlins possessed a right-handed hitter to bring in. The only righty on the bench today was Austin Kearns, who entered the game when Ruggiano was ejected. Rather than go to a left-handed hitter, Guillen left Johnson in to bunt. Johnson popped it up for an out, and Lee then retired Gorkys Hernandez to end the inning. Johnson came back out for the bottom of the seventh, gave up a two-run homer to Jimmy Rollins and the Marlins lost 3-1.

That, by the way, made it a three-game sweep for the Phillies, who are now over .500 at 72-71.

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.