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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Let’s talk about Pete Alonso’s conspiracy theory

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I’m not here to tell you if Pete Alonso is correct or not when he says Major League Baseball is tweaking their baseballs to manipulate market prices for impending free agents. That’s a task for someone who can speak more on the makeup of the balls and do fancier math than I’m able to. My guess is that MLB is uh, not equipped to manage something on that scale, but maybe the people running the league have just been pretending to be incompetent dipshits this whole time, to lull us all into a false sense of security and make us constantly annoyed with them and their inadequacies. Hey, it could happen.

What matters, both for our purposes and at large, is that players like Pete Alonso believe that MLB would stoop to this kind of low in order to depress the salaries of pitchers or hitters, depending on which there are more of in line to make bank on free agency in a given year. Alonso is an active player suggesting it, and he says that there are players talking about it — how many players, it’s unclear, but it’s apparently not just him. A couple of former players spoke up, with the linked video of Alonso above coming from former catcher Anthony Recker, while former infielder Will Middlebrooks says that the theory “makes sense.” Here’s Alonso, for those who don’t feel like watching a video…

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On doctoring baseballs

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Late last week, Sports Illustrated published a piece you should devote a few minutes to, on MLB pitchers doctoring baseballs well beyond the rates everyone had accepted just a few years back. I will say that the framing of the piece, both on social media and in the headline and all of those attention-grabbing areas, is a bit comical: as more than one person pointed out after publication, “This should be the biggest scandal in sports” as the quote to pull and feature the day after the NFL said they were going to stop using racial biases for their concussion protocol is funny, but more like Jokerfying your existence funny, not ha ha funny. And Bradford William Davis put up a whole thread on Twitter of problems within MLB itself that are more significant than pitch doctoring, but hey, I get it: editors gotta sell that piece.

Anyway! Despite the framing, the information within the SI feature still makes for a good read that gives you a good sense of where the game, and MLB’s officials, are when it comes to pitchers slathering goop onto baseballs. For our specific purposes, though, I want to focus on one point in particular: that there is a trickle-down effect to the minors, where deciding to just go for it and perfect the craft of cheating, of hiding the evidence, and so on, could be the difference between making it to the majors and escaping poverty-level wages and, well, not doing that.

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Something doesn’t add up in A’s apology for dismal minor-league meals

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Not that any of us wants to relive any part of 2020, but take a moment to put yourself back in mid-November of that year. That’s when MLB made a positive change to the minor leagues, by no longer making it the players’ responsibility to pay and tip a clubhouse attendant using their already meager earnings. This was a small but necessary step toward improving minor-league pay, since it actually let the players keep some of the little they earned, and took the onus off of them for ensuring that the clubhouse attendants were compensated.

Part of that deal was supposed to include meals provided by the teams more regularly than they had been doing: no longer would the clubbie be going out to pick up food using player funds, for instance, with the team handling that sort of thing themselves, both financially and in planning. At the time, I wrote that, “The quality of the meals themselves remains a question — [Baseball America’s] J.J. Cooper believes the provided meals will be healthier ones, but that’s a guess.” In some instances, maybe the meals are healthier than what former MiLB player Ty Kelly once shared on his Twitter account — a single slice of ham and cheese between two pieces of white bread, with no condiments or vegetables to be found — but in at least two cases we know of, that’s not how it’s been working. Remember, kids, it’s not cynicism if it turns out you were right.

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