Major League Baseball says minor league ball is “not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship”

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Major League Baseball issued a statement about the recent bill proposed in the House of Representatives known as the “Save America’s Pastime Act.” The legislation, H.R. 5580, aims to change the language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which would allow the league continue paying minor leaguers a pittance.

One of the representatives, Cheri Bustos (D-IL), withdrew her support for H.R. 5580 earlier on Thursday after receiving feedback which was mostly critical of the bill.

J.J. Cooper of Baseball America shared MLB’s statement, which says that minor league baseball is “not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship.”

Obviously, Major League Baseball is trying to justify paying its minor leaguers pennies on the dollar. The league, however, took in nearly $9.5 billion in revenues last year, according to Forbes. And Disney just bought a 33 percent stake in Major League Baseball Advanced Media in a deal valuing it at about $3.5 billion. This is not exactly a league that has to struggle to keep the lights on.

MLB already has it good with minor leaguers because they do not hit the open market until they hit free agency, six years after debuting in the majors. The players are drafted, essentially assigned a signing bonus based on their draft position, and then toil in the minor leagues for multiple seasons. Even a can’t-miss prospect like Bryce Harper spent parts of four seasons in the minors. Early in major leaguers’ careers, their salaries are dictated by their teams, paying them only a fraction more than the major league minimum salary, which is $507,500. This is the case for three seasons, typically, then the players reach arbitration eligibility. They finally receive a significant pay raise based on their skill, and players have three or four years of arbitration eligibility during which they rarely see their salaries slide backwards. Then, after exhausting their arbitration years, they can hit free agency and finally test the open market where they are more closely paid according to their skills.

During the time between being drafted and reaching arbitration eligibility, many things can happen to a player. He can plateau in skill, he can suffer a career- or life-altering injury, he can be blocked by another talented player at his position, he can have off-the-field issues. Despite devoting, let’s say, six years of his life to an organization that paid him below the minimum wage, the team will cut him without a second thought. Because minor league players aren’t protected by a union, they’re not guaranteed a safety net when they lose their jobs. No pension, no healthcare, no nothing. MLB’s stance on paying minor leaguers, which it calls “impractical,” is — as Craig put it — unconscionable.

Major League Baseball could easily afford to pay its players a living wage. Let’s say $50,000, which would allow the players to live comfortably, even if they’re supporting more than just themselves. Adam Dembowitz of Crashburn Alley did the math:

Putting aside the moral aspect of it, MLB dying on this hill is a bad idea for its future. Aaron Gleeman pointed out that Andrew Luck’s recent record contract with the Colts matches that of Giants mid-rotation starter Jeff Samardzija. “Play baseball,” Aaron said, which is what the families and friends of athletes are likely saying in increasing numbers, especially with the NFL’s recent battle over its responsibility for CTE. If you’re a kid choosing which sport to play, are you going to choose the league that treats you like a sweatshop worker or the league that can get you a nice early payday like the NFL and NBA? If Major League Baseball wants to continue contending with the other big sports leagues going forward, it has to provide a legitimate incentive for young people to play. It is already prohibitively expensive for kids in poorer communities to play, and now it’s advertising to them that playing baseball won’t get them out of poverty for at least a decade.

Don’t expect it to happen, but the MLB Players’ Union should go to bat for minor leaguers. They badly need union protection, and the MLBPA is one of the most powerful unions on the planet. It could immediately change thousands of lives for the better, and hundreds of thousands in the long term.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.