Max Scherzer
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MLBPA, league discussing methods to fight electronic sign-stealing

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Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich report that MLB and the MLB Players Association are in discussions on new rules to combat electronic sign-stealing. The talks come in the wake of a winter dominated by the revelations that the Astros cheated by using tech to steal signs on their way to winning the 2017 World Series, and widespread speculation that the cheating continued in one way or another into the 2019 season.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer, a prominent figure within the MLBPA and Washington’s union rep, is one of the players taking a leading role in the talks. He spoke with Rosenthal in an interview on MLB Network about the players’ goals for the new rules. Scherzer made it clear that while he takes no issue with players using the video room during games to things like analyze their swings, he has a problem with the implementation of algorithms like the Astros’ Codebreaker system. The three-time Cy Young Award winner also stated that he feels that there are too many cameras on the field.

The discussion of new rules about the proper use of video is a much-needed step for a sport that has seen its credibility damaged by cheating. While the complicated nature of the issue may prevent new rules from going into place before the start of the season, the mere fact that they’re being talked about at all is a plus. Having a universally respected player like Scherzer as the public face of the initiative is also a boon.

Here’s my take. Unless there’s going to be league-appointed hall monitors patrolling every video room at every stadium to ensure that nobody’s doing anything wrong, it may just make the most sense to turn everything off once the games start. Players might complain that they can’t check their arm angles or see if there’s a hitch in their swings, but it’ll stop the nonsense.

This feels like one of those can’t-put-the-toothpaste-back-in-the-tube situations. Scherzer and his team know more about this stuff than I do, but that’s my two cents.

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Agent highlights injustice of spring training for minor leaguers

Joshua Kusnick
Joshua Kusnick
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On Wednesday evening, agent Joshua Kusnick (pictured) tweeted about an injustice one of his clients, a minor league player, is facing at spring training. He wrote:

Have an milb client who showed up 2 weeks ago

He isnt being paid because spring training didnt start for milb 10 dollars a day per diem.

They have a 1200 deposit for the hotel. The player. Making 6k a year.

Player has no choice in staying at hotel Pays own way to field!

No gas reimbursement. If player has a car he must stay at hotel

This is insanity. Someone has to change this

As we have mentioned here before, minor leaguers aren’t paid during spring training. Despite this, teams place significant restrictions on their behavior, including how they travel and where they stay. Teams do provide a per diem for meals and will reimburse the player for his hotel stay, but that a player making so little is expected to take on the up-front cost of the deposit, as well as is quite unfair. According to Kusnick, the hotel will release the deposit when the player checks out.

I asked Kusnick to elaborate more on the issue facing his client as well as minor leaguers in general. He said, “These guys make less than minimum wage and they’re sold the lie that if they have a uniform they have a shot to get paid.” He emphasized, “It’s ownership’s oldest lie.”

Kusnick’s client, like many other minor leaguers, has to pick up a part-time job in the offseason to help make ends meet. His client gives lessons. Kusnick said, “It’s embarrassing to see pro athletes in America with part-time jobs in 2020 in an $8-10 billion industry.” He added that the players “have the anger but they don’t know what to do.”

Kusnick pointed out that his client got a bonus, and despite the injustice in question, his client generally has it better than most other minor league players in spring training. He urges us to think about the “undrafted free agent guys” who didn’t get a signing bonus, earning $6,000 per year and facing similar circumstances. “That’s not a fair shot,” Kusnick says. “It doesn’t make guys hungrier. It’s bulls***. It’s ownership selling bulls***. And they’re the kings of it. Ask Jim Crane.”

Asked about potential solutions, Kusnick suggested that the more prominent agents like Scott Boras use their “immense platform for good” to “establish real change.” He also suggested that minor leaguers could benefit from the MLBPA looping them in, especially “since they bargain away draft rights.” Kusnick doesn’t have faith in commissioner Rob Manfred even though he is “the only man who can do something now unilaterally.” An exasperated Kusnick tacked on, “Given the Astros situation, I’m not holding my breath.”

One thing is clear: Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball benefit from minor leaguers’ lack of unionization and their leverage deficit, forcing them to take on undue burdens just to go to work. Kusnick’s client and others like him shouldn’t be taking on the up-front cost of lodging and travel (“no gas reimbursement”). They should be paid a livable wage during the season, as well as during spring training and in the offseason when they are still responsible for training, nutrition, working on mechanics, watching video, etc. There are rarely days off for those in the minor leagues. It’s high time they are taken care of by teams that can, without question, afford to do so. Major league teams, not their minor league affiliates, are responsible for the salaries of the minor league players in their system.

Kusnick insists we “keep fighting and bringing attention to these issues so maybe one day the public pressure forces change. Until then, fight the bastards at every turn until they notice you and do something, if only to shut us up. It’ll work.”