Torii Hunter eager to extend his playing career past 2014

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Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter is through year one of his two-year deal signed in November last year. He’ll turn 39 years old on July 18, so the thought was that the contract would create a clear path into retirement, but Hunter sounds eager to continue playing beyond that. Via MLB.com:

Asked Friday, prior to his team’s American League Championship Series workout at Fenway Park, if he plans on retiring after the 2014 season, Hunter said: “Nope. I think I’m going to play five more years. I’m 28, man!”

The last part was a joke, and the media contingent laughed, but Hunter wants to stay with the Tigers a little longer and is certain that next season won’t be his last in the big leagues.

“No, it won’t be. It won’t be,” Hunter said. “I want to play past that contract.”

Hunter had a renaissance season of sorts, hitting .304 with an even .800 OPS and 17 home runs. He is only a year removed from a 5.8 WAR season with the Angels, per Baseball Reference, and he finished the regular season with 2.1 in 2013, so he certainly has something left in the tank.

Whether Hunter will prolong his career with the Tigers or with another club is another conversation entirely. They will still have their core players in 2015, including Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander, and Anibal Sanchez, but it’s hard to tell if they’ll produce at such a high level that the TIgers will continue to be a powerhouse.

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

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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.