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Jayson Werth called every team but Mets for job last winter

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Jayson Werth retired at the end of June following a minor league stint with the Mariners. Yesterday he took to the airwaves, however, to talk about how his final offseason went and what he thinks of the state of baseball as he transitions into the role of “former player.” It was fairly entertaining to say the least.

Talking to Howard Eskin of WIP in Philly, Werth said that he had offers as a free agent last November but that his agent, Scott Boras, advised him not to take them. The decision in such matters is always ultimately up to the player, but Werth took Boras’ advice. That led to a winter of no calls from any teams at all, so Werth took matters into his own hands:

“Spring training came and went, and about halfway through spring training, I felt like I had been working all winter, I was ready to play. So I took matters into my own hands and I called every team [but one], and tried to get a job . . . the only team I didn’t call? The Mets. I wouldn’t play for them.”

Ouch to the Mets. Also ouch to Boras, who Werth fired after teams he spoke to told him that they hadn’t heard from Boras and assumed Werth did not want to play. Which . . . I would expect will lead to some sort of response from Boras today, but I suppose we’ll see. What I do know for sure is that Werth would not be the first non-top-tier player to suggest that Boras’ style does not suit them.

Werth went on to decry analytics and Ivy League-educated front offices. Those sorts are worthy of criticism, but he did not exactly cover new ground here, nor did he explain how the analytical bent of front offices did him, personally, and injustice. I wouldn’t expect a player in Werth’s position to say so, but there is not a reason to believe that there’s a place for him on the field at this point of his career.

That aside, it’s fun to see when a player does not go gentle into that good night.

 

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.