MLB’s planned pay raise for MiLB players is severely lacking

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One of MLB’s excuses for attempting to disaffiliate 42 minor-league teams following the 2020 season has been the need to increase pay for minor-league players. Obviously, players need to be paid more, but MLB tying these two events together is disingenuous: MLB’s owners can afford to keep every team in Minor League Baseball going and pay every minor-league player far more than they do now, and it would still be a drop in the proverbial bucket for them.

As has been said before, the average minor-league salary could be $50,000 per year, and it would cost each team about $7.5 million. That’s it! MLB is tying the disaffiliation of teams together with increasing pay as a threat to the thousands of minor-league players who will remain: this is what could happen to you and your team if you make too much noise about your pay.

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Save Minor League Baseball Task Force takes next step in the fight against MLB

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On Tuesday, the Save Minor League Baseball Task Force introduced a congressional resolution to keep Major League Baseball from their plan to disaffiliate dozens of Minor League Baseball teams before the 2021 season. A bipartisan group comprised of the task force’s co-chairs —  Lori Trahan (Democrat, Massachusetts), David McKinley (Republican, West Virginia), Max Rose (Democrat, New York), and Mike Simpson (Republican, New York) — introduced the resolution, which makes three points within, that all tie back to one main point: don’t get rid of these teams:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved,

That the House of Representatives—

(1) supports the preservation of Minor League Baseball in 160 American communities;

(2) recognizes the unique social, economic, and historic contributions that Minor League Baseball has made to American life and culture; and

(3) encourages continuation of the 117-year foundation of the Minor Leagues in 160 communities through continued affiliations with Major League Baseball.

You can find the full text here, stuffed full of all of the Whereas you need that mention attendance (over 40 million for the 15th year running), MiLB’s donations to local communities (15,000 volunteer hours, $45 million in cash and in-kind gifts), and MiLB’s place as the only touchstone for pro ball in many, many communities. The primary points are the ones above, though, and the task force is seeking to pass those points as a resolution to make theirs known to MLB.

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John Buck learned about Curt Flood, and made sure other players would, too

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Gerrit Cole signed with the Yankees for a massive nine-year, $324 million deal that gave him the largest annual average payout of any deal in MLB. It’s the kind of contract that’s only possible because free agency, as an institution, exists: Cole was allowed to go into the open market, freed from the initial deal he inked when the Pirates drafted him in 2011 and then brought him to the majors in 2013, and agreed to sign with the team he wanted to, for the immense money they had to offer in order to show it wasn’t a one-way desire.

It feels like a given these days that this order of operations exists, but Cole didn’t forget that the existence of free agency is what brought him to this point, and during his press conference introducing him as a Yankee, he thanked the first Executive Director of the Players Association, Marvin Miller, and Curt Flood, who challenged MLB and its longstanding reserve clause, for what they did to allow the moment Cole was in to even exist. On its own, it was an excellent gesture, the kind of thing Miller himself said didn’t happen often enough in his own time guiding the players’ union, but the backstory makes it an even better moment.

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Nolan Arenado is mad at the Rockies for reasons predictable to everyone besides the Rockies

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The last few months have seemed like years thanks to the various scandals and general awfulness of Major League Baseball, but even so, you probably remember that weird moment in October where the Rockies decided they were just going to say whatever was on their mind without a filter. If not, well, let’s take you back to that day, and my coverage of it:

GM Jeff Bridich had some awkward honesty in his own presser, telling everyone that he’s the one who pushed for the opt-out in star third baseman Nolan Arenado’s lucrative extension. Why would he do that, you ask? Well, according to The Athletic’s Nick Groke: “Bridich said he feels no pressure to prove a winning team as a way to keep Arenado.” So, the Rockies locked up their most popular, best player to a long-term deal, earning some goodwill, which was much-needed after years of losing previous franchise icons for one reason or another. They also provided that player with an escape hatch he didn’t ask for, and straight-up said they don’t feel like they need to try in order to keep him from going through it. So, should Arenado leave because Colorado decides being a garbage fire is better than trying, the Rockies can at least hypothetically blame him for taking off: it was out of their hands, you know, he had the option to bail.

And now let’s look at this week’s news, courtesy Jeff Passan:

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The world is burning, and athletes are silent

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Australia is on fire. Like California in the United States, bush fires during the hotter months are a common occurrence, but climate change has fanned those flames, and they just keep burning. Huge swaths of lands are now devastated and dead, as is whatever lived there, be they plants, insects, marsupial, or even people. It’s horrifying on a number of levels, and the kind of thing that isn’t going to just get better by ignoring it or sending well wishes.

It’s through this lens that you need to read Howard Bryant’s latest at ESPN, in which he takes tennis players — and athletes in general — to task for the way they handle political crises:

Appropriate or not, the narrative has been typecast to return us to normalcy, with athletes’ on-field strength infusing us, teams and players arm-in-arm with law enforcement, mayors and governors. They are the ambassadors whose very presence tells you we will rebuild, that everything will be all right.

While the fires decimate the country and players voice their concerns that conditions are unsafe and perhaps the tournament should be postponed, Tennis Australia, the governing body of the sport in the country, has said little of substance to address the effects of the fires on player safety, or the ethics and morality of hosting a multimillion-dollar spectacle as the country literally burns. Health officials have graded the air quality as “unhealthy.” Even through the smoke, it appears the show must go on.

The superstars, knowing their place despite the growing voices of dissent within their own ranks, assured tennis authorities and the public at large they could still be counted on, that they would trust authority instead of challenge it.

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The WNBPA should be proud of what they gained, but also what they didn’t lose

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The Women’s National Basketball Players Association has tentatively agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement with the WNBA, and from what’s been released to this point, it’s a fascinating document that holds promise for the future of women’s sports and their compensation. Of course, one single sport or league having a quality CBA doesn’t mean all of women’s sports or all women’s leagues are suddenly fixed or the players are being paid fairly, but a high-profile league like the WNBA seeing vast improvements across the board is a noticeable and heartening start.

It’s worth pointing out that, before these negotiations kicked into high gear, the WNBPA opted out of their CBA entirely: it was time for major change, and backing out of everything agreed upon in the history of their Players Association was a massive signaling that they were ready for said changes. The risk paid off, as pay has nearly doubled with room for the biggest stars in the league to make more than double that new maximum, excellent benefits were introduced, and a true 50/50 split in league revenue is finally a legitimate possibility.

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Astros’ $5 million fine a reminder MLB works for the owners, not the other way around

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Five million dollars. That’s how much money the Astros were fined by Major League Baseball as part of their punishment for stealing signs using video technology, en route to a World Series championship in 2017. It’s the maximum amount of money that any team can be fined by the league, and it’s a paltry sum, especially in the context of what Houston got from the cheating itself.

The Astros made $66 million in profit in the season following their 2017 title run — teams that win the World Series tend to see an uptick in attention and revenue. They also earned additional cash in the 2017 postseason, too, simply by being there and playing through to a Game 7 victory. The Astros’ players alone split over $30 million in postseason shares that fall, and that money came from a larger pool of postseason earnings that was split with each postseason teams’ players and the teams’ owners. That $5 million is nothing compared to what Houston gained.

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John Henry tries to pin blame for his own words about payroll on the media

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The Dodgers define themselves as successful for private reasons they won’t share with you

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Senne v. MLB wins another court victory

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​It’s taken years, as these things do, but the lawsuit Senne v. MLB has been picking up wins of late. In August of last year, Senne v. MLB — full name Aaron Senne et al. v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp — was granted class action status, allowing players to collectively seek unpaid wages for their time playing in Minor League Baseball. As we’ve covered in this space before, minor-league players are not paid for spring training, nor for the postseason, as they are paid just during the regular season, meaning low-level players are pulling in around $1,100 per month for less than half of the year. And, thanks to Congress, they aren’t eligible for overtime despite putting in well over 40 hours per week in the season, plus whatever offseason work needs to be performed in order to thrive in-season.

Now, there’s another W to stack on top of the transition to class action status, as the Ninth Circuit court denied MLB’s appeal over that status: that means the Supreme Court is the only place left to appeal to if MLB wants to avoid going to trial.

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