A’s minor leaguers can’t afford to play home games

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Back in June, I wrote about how Cardinals’ minor leaguers were struggling to pay for their hotels during home games — that they were spending more than they were making on homestands, even while staying at a discounted hotel. It certainly was not a situation unique to those Cardinals’ farmhands, just given the math involved in paying for a hotel for home games while making a salary well below the poverty line, but St. Louis’ minor leaguers were one of the first to speak out anonymously and with a team-level identifier attached.

Now, some Oakland A’s minor leaguers are saying the same thing is happening to them. Alex Schultz at the SFGATE wrote about how A’s minor leaguers playing for Single-A Stockton can’t afford to pay for a hotel during home games, even though the A’s got a bulk discount at one. The situation is the same as it was for the Cardinals’ players highlighted in June: thanks to coronavirus protocols during the pandemic, not being able to stay with host families, or stuff six of themselves into a three-bedroom apartment to rent at a severe discount, is sucking up what little pay the players usually manage to take home.

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Round-up: All-Stars’ labor priorities, and the A’s stadium plan vote

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The ongoing collective bargaining negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association have not been public to this point, which should not be a huge surprise. It’s just July, and the current CBA doesn’t expire until December. Plus, we just had a whole lot of public negotiating going on before the 2020 season, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic moving negotiations ahead of schedule: the PA didn’t seem like they wanted to go public at all until MLB forced their hand there, while MLB itself probably decided to rein things in a bit given how their extremely public, pandemic-related posturing went over — as one of my dad’s favorite sayings goes — about as well as a fart in church.

So yes, things have been quiet, with the only public knowledge at this point basically being that the two sides are in fact talking things over. The 2021 All-Star Game was last week, though, which means media availability for a whole bunch of high-profile players, many of whom were asked questions about what it is they want out of a new CBA. What struck me while reading about this was the uniformity of the answers: the players aren’t discussing the actual details of CBA talks, of course, but they seem pretty unified in terms of what it is they’re looking for out of a new CBA, in a general sense.

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Better Know a Commissioner: Ford Frick

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​Before Rob Manfred, before Bud Selig, there were lots of other aggravating, power-hungry men leading up Major League Baseball. This series exists to discuss the history of every commissioner MLB has had, with particular focus, where applicable, on their interactions and relationship with labor, the players. The rest of the series can be found through this link.

Following Kenesaw Mountain Landis’ habit of terrifying everyone around him and doing whatever he wanted to, and Happy Chandler doing what the players and fans — but not the owners — wanted him to do, Major League Baseball’s owners went in a different direction for the third commissioner. Ford Frick spent 14 years as MLB commish, starting in late-1951, and his bio at Society for American Baseball Research gets right to the point of his appeal:

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The MLB All-Star Game’s ties to player pensions

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Major League Baseball players might have the best pension in American sports these days, but that wasn’t always the case. For one, they didn’t always have a pension at all, and secondly, MLB’s owners wanted nothing more than to never pay into the thing again immediately after creating one. The first strike in MLB history came in 1972, and due to disagreements over how to pay into the pension, which MLB’s owners were not giving cost of living adjustments to even though there was a way to do so that wouldn’t even cost them a dime of their own money.* Even before then, though, the pension was a point of contention.

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Taxes are one more reason you can’t trust MLB owners crying poor

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Once Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened 2020 season came to an end, the financial leaks began. MLB wanted you to know they had lost money, so much money, and that it was going to impact them in so many ways for years to come — just something to keep in mind as collective bargaining came closer to center stage, you know? You couldn’t trust MLB crying poor back in October, and you couldn’t trust it in December, either, when team sources kept leaking unbelievable figures to journalists like Bill Madden, in the hopes of convincing everyone that these folks were truly going through something because there were fewer games played and no tickets sold for the 2020 season.

As I said at the time to counter Madden’s doom and gloom:

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Curt Flood should be in the Hall of Fame, and at least one member of Congress agrees

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​Curt Flood is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, which might be somewhat confounding if you’ve already forgotten that Marvin Miller was only just elected to partake in Cooperstown’s brand of immortality. Flood, though, deserves the recognition that enshrinement brings as well: he was a fine player, better than plenty of others who are in the Hall, but even if that weren’t true, he merits entry into Cooperstown’s halls for his role in bringing down MLB’s reserve clause.

It’s fair to argue, solely for Flood’s on-field, penciled-into-the-lineup contributions, that he didn’t have a Hall of Fame career, for the same reasons you’d say that, I don’t know, J.D. Drew didn’t have a Hall of Famer career*. It is far less fair, though, to say that Flood doesn’t deserve enshrinement in a place with “Fame” in its name. He refused a trade, writing a letter to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn to explain his reasoning for the refusal, and then challenged the reserve clause in the form of Curt Flood v. Bowie Kuhn. While Flood’s case against Kuhn ended in defeat, it still brought the reserve clause and its problems into the public consciousness, and the subsequent challenge of the clause and success of Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally doesn’t happen without Flood opening the fl… well, you know.

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Advocating for minor leaguers works

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​When Advocates for Minor Leaguers formed back in early 2020, the idea was to give minor-league baseball players a voice. Fear for job security, fear of having no one in their corner, fear of retribution: all of these have kept minor leaguers silent, even in the face of horrible living conditions, working conditions, and exploitation. What Advocates for Minor Leaguers hoped to do, then, was give these players an outlet with which to share their issues with the public, anonymously if needed, and let pressure mount from there to force change to occur.

It’s been successful thus far, with issues large and larger pointed out by Advocates for Minor Leaguers across the last year-plus, the latest of which is the lack of pay for players in extended spring training. As of less than one week ago, just over one-third of the league bothered to pay players in extended spring training: that’s right, loads of minor-league players who just went through spring training unpaid but didn’t get assigned to a full-season squad are continuing to play and work daily on the diamond, but for free.

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What SCOTUS’ NCAA decision means for MLB

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On Monday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of former college players in a case against the NCAA and its lack of compensation for student athletes. It’s a significant deal that this has happened, especially that it has happened unanimously, as it could, as ESPN’s Dan Murphy put it in his report, open the door to “future legal challenges that could deal a much more significant blow to the NCAA’s current business model.”

I suggest you check out something like college-centric Extra Points’ breakdown of what this actually means and could mean, if you want the full breakdown. For our purposes, in the more professional baseball-y neck of the woods, there’s something else to cover. There was some discussion on Twitter following the SCOTUS decision on what this kind of blow to the NCAA’s way of doing things could mean for an entity like Major League Baseball, which has benefitted and continues to benefit from an antitrust exemption bestowed on them a full century ago. After all, if SCOTUS is ruling unanimously in favor of former college players, and claims that the NCAA is violating antitrust law with their limits on “education-related benefits that schools can provide to athletes,” then it’s natural to assume that they would be open to making changes to MLB’s antitrust status.

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Better Know a Commissioner: Happy Chandler

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​Before Rob Manfred, before Bud Selig, there were lots of other aggravating, power-hungry men leading up Major League Baseball. This series exists to discuss the history of every commissioner MLB has had, with particular focus, where applicable, on their interactions and relationship with labor, the players. The rest of the series can be found through this link.

You will never catch me saying that any commissioner of Major League Baseball is “good” without some major caveats, like “good for the owners” or “good for profits” or “good at being a monster,” but Happy Chandler certainly gets pretty close. What else can you say about a guy who served one term because he made fans and players happy, which in turn made the owners dislike him? Getting fired by the owners for not being enough like the last iron-fisted (and racist) demon of a commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, is something you can be proud to put on your résumé, really.

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MiLB players can barely afford their hotel and meals, even after pay increase

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​I keep seeing in random conversations on social media that it’s in bad taste, or won’t be well accepted, to continue to clamor for minor-league baseball players to receive raises right after they just received one for the 2021 season. This simply isn’t true: it’s exactly what MLB wanted to happen, sure, that everyone would feel compelled to lay off of their treatment of minor leageurs because hey, a raise, and I said as much back in 2019 when news of a 50 percent bump first appeared:

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