Yankees eliminated with Indians’ victory

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It’s official: the Yankees’ season is over after 162 games for just the second time in the wild card era.

The Bombers were eliminated from contention when the Indians topped the White Sox 7-2 on Wednesday evening. Just a few minutes later, they wrapped up an 8-3 loss to the Rays, leaving them with an 82-76 record.

Regardless of what happens in their final four games, the Yankees will finish with a winning record for the 21st straight year. However, they are going to miss the postseason for the first time since 2008 and the second time since 1994, when the strike eliminated the postseason. The Yankees were in first place when play ended after 113 games that year. They failed to make the postseason at 88-74 the year before in 1993. The last time they finished under .500 was 1992 (76-86).

Even if the Yankees do win out and finish at 86-76 (.531), it will be their worst record since that sub-.500 season. Their next lowest winning percentage was .540 in 2000, but they still finished in first place (and won the World Series) that year.

It’s a disappointing send off for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, but still an impressive record giving the myriad injuries dealt with by Joe Girardi’s crew. Consider this: Chris Stewart has the sixth most at-bats this year on the Yankees roster. Robinson Cano, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki will be the only three to finish with 500. Fourth and fifth on the list are Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells.

As they head into what surely will be a busy and probably controversial offseason, the Yankees have question marks everywhere. Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson are free agents. Alex Rodriguez has a 213-game suspension hanging over his head. Derek Jeter, who has a player option, isn’t likely to be a full-time shortstop going forward. Plus, the Yankees, who are expected to try to get under the $189 million luxury-tax figure, won’t know how much money they have to spend until the A-Rod saga is resolved.

Practically certain to depart in free agency are longtime Yankees Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. David Robertson could replace Rivera in the closer’s role, but then the Yankees would have to sign someone to pitch the eighth. There are only two locks for the rotation in CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova, but there’s some hope that Michael Pineda will return from his shoulder woes to contribute. The lineup will have Gardner, Alfonso Soriano and the rehabbing Mark Teixeira at first base, plus Suzuki and Wells hopefully in lesser roles.

About the only positive thing the Yankees can take from this season as they head into 2014 is Nova’s rebound campaign that has him looking like a legitimate No. 3 starter. Even though he’s been typically working with two pitches (fastball and curve), he’s notched two complete-game shutouts in his last five starts, leaving him with a 3.13 ERA in 19 starts and three relief appearances this season.

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.