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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One minor-league team hopes you don’t realize how sources work

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Ah, the life of a minor-league baseball player. On Sunday night, Advocates for Minor Leaguers tweeted out that they had heard from “multiple sources” that the Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ players were told they’d “be on their own” finding a roof over their head for the night, because the hotel the team usually has some players stay at had no availability. It wasn’t a small number of players, either, as the tweet continued on to say that “at least a dozen” of them were planning on spending the night in the locker room: not exactly the most comfortable environment on a normal night, never mind following a day game and a six-hour trip on a bus from the club’s road trip.

That was at 8:02 p.m. ET: at 10:44 p.m., Advocates sent out another tweet saying that, “We’ve been told that the Pelicans will now be providing housing for all of their players tonight. Advocacy works.” The whole situation is not as cut and dry as just looking at those couple of tweets suggests, though, thanks to how the team decided to handle things.

The Myrtle Beach Pelicans’ own Twitter account posted at 10:21 p.m. that:

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Mickey Callaway is fired and banned, but will anything else change?

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Mickey Callaway was finally fired by the Angels and punished by MLB for alleged sexual harassment of a number of women. It took forever for both the Angels and MLB to come to a decision on this, which is strange considering that, not only did The Athletic thoroughly report on five different women coming forward back on February 1 — a report that included not just what the victims said but actual evidence of Callaway’s harassment — but there was also a follow-up report that showed Callaway’s teams and MLB were previously aware of his behavior. The only surprise for MLB and Callaway’s employers about five women coming forward might have been that it was just five: Continue reading “Mickey Callaway is fired and banned, but will anything else change?”

Better Know a Commissioner: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

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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.

Kenesaw Mountain Landis was known as the man who saved professional baseball even before he became MLB’s first commissioner. What’s curious about this is that he didn’t actually do anything to save it: he didn’t even give an actual decision on the antitrust suit he was presiding over, and yet, he got the credit, anyway.

Landis was the judge in the Federal League’s antitrust suit against Organized Baseball, way back in 1915:

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MLB could pay MiLB players a living wage, and for their housing, for a relatively paltry sum

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I wanted to expand a bit on my latest Baseball Prospectus article, which focused on the Astros’ decision to provide furnished apartments for all of their minor-league players in 2021, to talk about just how much doing all of this would cost. Per the original report by Brittany Ghiroli, Houston went ahead with this plan due to the multiple restrictions that playing a minor-league season in the midst of a pandemic entailed, so it’s unclear if housing will still be provided for in 2022. Whether that’s the plan or not, it should be.

It just would not cost that much in the grand scheme of things for every single MLB team to provide housing for their minor-league players each season. As I wrote for BP:

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The MLBPA finally filed a grievance over 2020 season length

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For about a year now, the threat of a significant grievance has loomed over Major League Baseball. The Players Association first brought up a potential grievance against MLB back when the league was clearly failing to negotiate the 2020 season in good faith, delaying and delaying until there was no choice but to host an even shorter pandemic-impacted campaign. Then, in late-October, The Athletic’s Evan Drellich pointed out that the grievance against MLB for not scheduling as many games as they could have was still a real possibility, that it wasn’t just a tool used to get MLB to finally come to the table with serious offers prior to the 2020 season.

And now, we have word that the grievance has indeed been filed by the Players Association, thanks to the New York Post. The union is reportedly seeking around $500 million in damages from MLB, who, as you can imagine, is countering this grievance. As Joel Sherman points out, it’s an estimate of $500 million, in part because the PA didn’t specify how many games should have been scheduled: the math works out in a way where “around $500 million” means there should have been 20-25 more on the schedule, though.

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A’s threat to move a reminder MLB expansion is more conceptual than anything

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Last Friday, my original plan was to write about a bit of news that had nearly gotten away from me. On April 27, the Associated Press reported that expansion fees for potential brand new Major League Baseball clubs could rise to the “$2.2 billion range.” That figure was arrived at because of a recent discussion commissioner Rob Manfred had with Sportico, where he shared that the average franchise value in MLB these days is $2.2 billion.

The rest of the information in the piece isn’t new, which is part of why I was fine pushing it off when something else came up. And why would there be new info? There hasn’t been a round of expansion since the 1998 season, and while it occasionally comes up in conversation as a possibility, it tends to be casual, or brought up in order to make a point elsewhere.

I had initially planned on reminding everyone about that last point mostly as a hypothetical, since the last time I discussed expansion in detail was back in the summer of 2017, while I was still with SB Nation. That piece, titled, “Rob Manfred won’t expand MLB while it needs new cities as stadium leverage,” kind of speaks for itself right there, but let’s dive in, anyway, since that reasoning has become all the more relevant thanks to some news from this week.

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The minor-league housing situation is even worse than realized

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About a month ago, it was revealed that MLB teams weren’t allowing their minor-league players to spend the season living with host families. While that made sense for COVID-19 protocol purposes, teams didn’t provide any kind of financial relief to these players who relied on the host system in order to save — or, more accurately, redirect toward another need — money from their paltry paychecks. The solution, to me, was that MLB teams should be paying for MiLB player housing.

A week after that, it was revealed that some teams aren’t paying for the hotels or the meals for minor-league players at the alternate sites. The reason? Nothing said that the teams had to do that, so, some of them decided they weren’t going to spend a dime on something they were not required to.

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