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New Era to eliminate over 200 union jobs at its on-field cap making factory

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New Era is the official manufacturer of baseball caps for Major League Baseball. They make both the on-field versions worn by big leaguers and the replica 59/50 models you, me and everyone else wears.

The replicas — which constitute over 90% of the caps it makes — are made by third party manufacturers in places such as China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Haiti. Pursuant to New Era’s contract with Major League Baseball, however, the on-field caps are made in the USA. For the past several years they have been made at a factory in Derby, New York, which employs 219 union workers. Last fall they announced that they would close the Derby factory in March, eliminating the 219 jobs and moving them to a non-union, contracted manufacturing facility in Miami.

While the announcement was made in November, it was brought to our attention today by Nationals reliever Sen Doolittle, who tweeted about the factory closing today and announced a social media campaign protesting New Era’s decision, as described below.

Doolittle also tweeted about MLB’s history with unionized garment workers, including workers at a Majestic factory — which makes uniforms — a few years back. As Doolittle notes, MLB players, like the garment workers, are unionized, and is advocating a stand in solidarity with them.

UPDATE: New Era has released a statement regarding the closing, referencing an agreement it has reached with the union representing the Derby plant:

Over the last several weeks, New Era has been in negotiations with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and can now announce that we have reached a plant closing agreement with the CWA that includes comprehensive severance benefits for our employees in Derby.
This is an important step in New Era’s transition away from owning and operating manufacturing plants. The Derby plant closure will occur at the end of March.
We are very grateful to all our employees for their years of service. We recognize that this is a difficult time for them and New Era is continuing to work with the New York State Department of Labor and several regional companies to help secure employment opportunities for those affected by the Derby closure.

Nats’ success shouldn’t be about Bryce Harper

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Bryce Harper turns 27 years old today. As an early birthday present, he got to watch his former team reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. His new team finished exactly at .500 in fourth place, missing the playoffs. These were facts that did not go unnoticed as the Nationals completed an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals at home last night.

Harper spent seven seasons with the Nationals before hitting free agency and ultimately signing with the Phillies on a 13-million, $330 million contract. The Nationals offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million contract at the end of the 2018 regular season, but about $100 million of that was deferred until he was 65 which lowered the present-day value of the offer. The Nats’ offer wasn’t even in the same ballpark, really.

Nevertheless, Nationals fans were upset that their prodigy jilted them to go to the Phillies. He was mercilessly booed whenever the Phillies played in D.C. Nats fans’ Harper jerseys were destroyed, or at least taped over.

Harper, of course, was phenomenal with the Nationals. He won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, then won the NL MVP Award several years later with an historically outstanding 1.109 OPS while leading the league with 42 homers and 118 runs scored. Overall, as a National, he had a .900 OPS. Pretty good. He was also productive in the postseason, posting an .801 OPS across 19 games, mostly against playoff teams’ best starters and best relievers. Furthermore, if the Nats had Harper this year, he would have been in right field in lieu of Adam Eaton. Harper out OPS’d Eaton by 90 points and posted 2.5 more WAR in a similar amount of playing time. The Nationals would have been even better if they had Harper this year.

The Nationals lost all four Division Series they appeared in during the Harper era. 3-2 to the Cardinals in 2012, 3-1 to the Giants in ’14, 3-2 to the Dodgers in ’16, and 3-2 to the Cubs in ’17. They finally get over the hump the first year they’re without Harper, that’s the difference, right? I saw the phrase “addition by subtraction” repeatedly last night, referring to Harper and the Nats’ subsequent success without him.

Harper, though, didn’t fork over four runs to the Cardinals in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5 in 2012. He didn’t allow the Dodgers to rally for four runs in the seventh inning of Game 5 in ’16 before ultimately losing 4-3. He didn’t use a gassed Max Scherzer in relief in 2017’s Game 5, when he allowed five of the seven Cubs he faced to reach base, leading to three runs which loomed large in a 9-8 loss. If certain rolls of the dice in those years had gone the Nationals’ way, they would have appeared in the NLCS. They might’ve even been able to win a World Series.

The Nationals saw how that looks this year. It was the opposing manager this time, Dave Roberts, who mismanaged his bullpen. Howie Kendrick then hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the 10th inning off of Joe Kelly to win the NLDS for the Nats. The playoffs are random. Sometimes a ball bounces your way, sometimes an umpire’s call goes your way, and sometimes the opposing manager makes several unforced errors to throw Game 5 in your lap.

Reaching the World Series, then thumbing your nose while sticking out your tongue at Harper feels like a guy tagging his ex-girlfriend on his new wedding photos. It’s time to move on.