1,000 minor leaguers send MLB petition demanding spring training back pay

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Recall the news of March, if you will: even though Senne v. MLB is not yet at trial, the judge presiding over the class action suit already awarded some damages to the side of the minor-league players. More importantly for our specific purposes here today, though, Judge Joseph Spero determined that, “the plaintiffs performed ‘work’ during spring training in Arizona and Florida, and that travel time on team buses to away games during spring training and in California during the regular season is compensable under law.”

Now let’s rewind to October of 2020, when I wrote for Baseball Prospectus about the importance of Senne v. MLB to not just the past players it was directly representing in court, but to the present and future ones of Minor League Baseball, too:

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A salary floor should be a priority, yes, but not at any cost

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Last week for Baseball Prospectus, I wrote about how a priority in the next collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Association should be a salary floor. Too many teams get away with not spending the money they bring in each year, whether it’s revenue-sharing checks received after the season, their share of national television revenue, or even their own local revenues: a salary floor wouldn’t force everyone to spend as much as they are able, no, but it would at least force the lowest number trotted out their each year to be higher.

There were a few things I didn’t get into in that piece that I’d like to discuss now, though. For one, last week’s feature was mostly about why a salary floor was a necessity, given the current competitive conditions and the revenue even the poorest teams in MLB are bringing in annually. Second, though, is that these other issues deserve more time to themselves, so, let’s give that to them.

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It’s still weird that WAR and the BBWAA are involved in player compensation

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On Thursday, FanGraphs ran a piece explaining that they were making a significant change to how they calculated wins above replacement. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, of course — it’s good that FanGraphs is making a change to how they measure defensive value, especially since what they are changing has been a known issue for some time now amongst people who pay attention to such things. These kinds of changes are how we end up with better understanding of which players are the most valuable, the least valuable, and so on. WAR isn’t the be-all, end-all, even if some treat it as such, but it can still be useful for analysis, so prioritizing its accuracy is necessary.

It’s not a static figure, though: historical WAR changes when the inputs change. Which is why FanGraphs’ list includes a number of tables that do things like show that Nick Ahmed has actually been worth nearly seven more wins above replacement in the last five full seasons plus the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign than they were giving him credit for: from 2016 through 2021, Ahmed was rated as producing 4.8 WAR, but the change to the formula now has him at 11.6 over the same time period. Baseball-Reference, for what it’s worth, already had Ahmed at 11.5 WAR from 2016 through 2021, largely on the strength of his defensive output.

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Just one more reason to pay minor leaguers during spring training

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At the end of last week, Minor League Baseball Players received their first paychecks since October of 2021. Minor leaguers aren’t paid year round, and they aren’t paid for spring training or fall leagues, either, not unless teams are making some kind of exception for extended seasons and instructionals, as they did during 2020, when there was no regular season at all. And since the first paychecks weren’t even for a full work schedule, as far as paid time goes, they were meager, even for minor-league pay.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers shared a few screenshots on Saturday of these direct deposits: one for $50.44, another for $62.96, a third for $54.98, and the largest of the bunch, a whopping $79.16. That’s it. The players have bills to pay, they have food to purchase and eat, and they’re getting basically nothing from their first paychecks from MLB in six months.

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ah, so you persecute Phil Castellini just because he has different beliefs?

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A fun thing about the Cincinnati Reds is that they finished the 2021 season with a record of 83-79, third in the National League Central. They had Nick Castellanos and his 34 homers, they had the Rookie of the Year, second baseman Jonathan India, a rotation where every regular starter was between league-average and legit great, and they had some intriguing prospects like Hunter Greene on the way as reinforcements. They missed the postseason, but there was the start of something here, if only the team would build on it — especially since the expectation was that the postseason would be permanently expanded for 2022, which did, in fact, come to pass.

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The Pirates are making much, much more money than they’re spending

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It’s good that the Players Association didn’t drop their revenue-sharing grievances against various MLB clubs during the collective bargaining that shaped the new CBA. The league tried to get them to do so again and again, but the union held firm to the idea that combatting the way teams were using revenue-sharing funds — or, more accurately, the way teams were not using revenue-sharing funds — was vital. We got one pretty good reminder of why recently, since the A’s keep on cutting payroll despite being re-added to the revenue-sharing recipients pile, and now we have another: the Pirates reportedly “often” make enough money from their gate alone to cover their payroll, which leads you to wonder where the local and national television revenue is going, and what those revenue-sharing dollars they receive are being used on, too.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the details on Sunday:

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Minor-league players aren’t paying clubhouse dues anymore, except for when they are

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Let’s hop back to November 16 of 2020 for a moment:

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