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Jacob deGrom finally gets run support, wins first game since June 18

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There has not been more of a hard luck pitcher than Jacob deGrom this season. While he has put up Cy Young-level performances, posting sub-2.00 ERA and striking out more than five times as many batters as he has walked, he pitches for the New York Mets so those great performances have not turned into wins all that often.

The poor defense and lack of run support meant that, heading into today’s outing against the Cincinnati Reds, deGrom only had a record of 5-7 despite that sparking ERA, despite all of those strikeouts, despite the minimal number of walks allowed and despite the fact that — once you controlled for the subpar fielder’s behind him — he’s been arguably the best pitcher in the National League this year. Not many players have done more to help their teams win than deGrom and not many have had so little help in doing it.

Today, however, was different. deGrom was his usual dominant self, tossing six shutout innings, allowing only four hits and one walk while striking out ten. The difference: he got a little run support, thanks to five runs when he was the pitcher of record and three more after he left the game with a 5-0 lead. One of those runs came via his own plate patience when he drew a bases-loaded walk in the fourth inning. Others helping deGrom’s cause: Brandon Nimmo, who had two RBI doubles and knocked in three in all and Austin Jackson, who hit two RBI doubles and singled in a third run himself.

With that, deGrom was awarded his sixth win of the season and his first since June 18, when it was still technically spring. He also lowered his ERA to 1.77, helping his already strong argument for the NL Cy Young Award, even if he’s unlikely to even notch a dozen wins and may not even get ten if the Mets continue to be the Mets.

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.