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Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) withdraws support for “Save America’s Pastime Act”

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On Wednesday, we learned about a proposed bill — the misleadingly-titled “Save America’s Pastime Act”, or H.R. 5580 — that aimed to change wording in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which would let teams continue paying their minor leaguers minuscule wages. The legislation was proposed by Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (D-IL).

As news of the bill went viral on Wednesday, many contacted Bustos through Twitter, Facebook, and other means. Bustos heard the feedback and, as a result, has withdrawn her support for H.R. 5580.

Her statement read:

“Minor League baseball teams are an important part of the economic and social fabric of communities across our nation, including the Quad-Cities and Peoria, in our Congressional District,” Congresswoman Bustos said. “In the last 24 hours, several concerns about the bill have been brought to my attention that have led me to immediately withdraw my support of the legislation.

Sports have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and while it’s important to sustain minor league baseball teams that provide economic support to small communities across America, I cannot support legislation that does so at the expense of the players that draw us to stadiums like those in the Quad-Cities and Peoria.

Whether it’s on the factory floor, in classrooms or on the playing fields of one of America’s revered traditions, I strongly support raising the minimum wage and the right to collective bargaining for fair wages, and I believe that Major League Baseball can and should pay young, passionate minor league players a fair wage for the work they do.”

Kudos to Rep. Bustos for being willing to listen to feedback and alter her position on a bill with which she was directly involved.

As of this writing, Guthrie hasn’t said anything further about the legislation.

Rob Manfred walks back comment about 60-game season

Rob Manfred
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Yesterday, on The Dan Patrick Show, commissioner Rob Manfred stuck his foot in his mouth concerning negotiations with the MLB Players Association, saying, “We weren’t going to play more than 60 games.” The comment was taken poorly because MLB owners, represented by Manfred, and the MLBPA were engaged in protracted negotiations in May and June over the 2020 season. Ultimately they couldn’t come to terms, so Manfred had to set the season as prescribed by the March agreement. In saying, “We weren’t going to play more than 60 games,” Manfred appeared to be in violation of the March agreement, which said the league must use the “best efforts to play as many games as possible.” It also seemed to indicate the owners were negotiating in bad faith with the players.

Per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY, Manfred walked back his comment on Thursday. Manfred said, “My point was that no matter what happened with the union, the way things unfolded with the second [coronavirus] spike, we would have ended up with only time for 60 games, anyway. As time went on, it became clearer and clearer that the course of the virus was going to dictate how many games we could play.” Manfred added, “As it turned out, the reality was there was only time to play 60 games. If we had started an 82-game season [beginning July 1], we would have had people in Arizona and Florida the time the second spike hit.”

As mentioned yesterday, it is important to view Manfred’s comments through the lens that he represents the owners. The owners wanted a shorter season with the playoffs beginning on time (they also wanted expanded playoffs) because, without fans, they will be making most of their money this year through playoff television revenue. Some thought the owners’ offers to the union represented stall tactics, designed to drag out negotiations as long as possible. Thus, the season begins later, reducing the possible number of regular season games that could be played. In other words, the owners used the virus to their advantage.

Manfred wants the benefit of the doubt with the way fans and the media interpreted his comment, but I’m not so sure he has earned it. This isn’t the first time Manfred has miscommunicated with regard to negotiations. He told the media last month that he had a deal with the union when, in fact, no such deal existed. The MLBPA had to put out a public statement refuting the claim. Before that, Manfred did a complete 180 on the 2020 season, saying on June 10 that there would “100%” be a season. Five days later, he said he was “not confident” there would be a 2020 season. Some have interpreted Manfred’s past comments as a way to galvanize or entice certain owners, who might not have been on the same page about resuming play. There’s a layer beneath the surface to which fans and, to a large extent, the media are not privy.

The likely scenario is that Manfred veered a bit off-script yesterday, realized he gave the union fodder for a grievance, and rushed out to play damage control.