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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Better Know a Commissioner: Kenesaw Mountain Landis

This article is free for anyone to read, but please consider becoming a Patreon subscriber to allow me to keep writing posts like this one.

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. 

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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The MLBPA has managed to triple the minimum salary before

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For Baseball Prospectus last November, I wrote about the need for the Major League Baseball Players Association to fight to increase the minimum salary in their next collective bargaining talks with MLB. I’ve brought this up a few times since, because those talks will begin at some point in the coming weeks or months, given the current CBA expires in December and the regular season is slated to start in less than a month: it should be one of the primary focus points for the union, as it has the kind of from-the-ground-up energy necessary to ensure a strong future for the PA and its members, much more so than the current trickle-down-ish model where massive contracts for superstars keep the average salary up while, in reality, the league exploits young, inexpensive players en masse.

My suggestion was to triple the minimum salary, and the reasoning why that instead of some other possible plans, like reaching free agency earlier, is below:

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55 years ago, Marvin Miller became MLBPA Executive Director

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March 5 is a pretty nifty day in baseball history — really, sports history — if you’re into labor at all. And you’re here reading this newsletter, so unless you’re one of those sad people who hate reads in between posting comments where the cringiest part always comes after the “however,” you’re probably into the labor aspect of things. Anyway, March 5, 1966: that’s when Marvin Miller was elected to be the first official Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Miller wasn’t the first choice of the players: that would be Judge Robert Cannon, who, despite his desire to be the commissioner of MLB and his willingness to do what the owners wanted, despite his advice to the players being to “make no demands, no public statements,” remained popular with the players. As his SABR bio points out, Cannon never even broached the subject of raising the minimum salary for players during his time as their legal advisor. He did not care about what the players wanted, nor did he ask. Cannon thought the players were lucky to work in the industry they did, and that what the owners gave them was what was right, so, from his point of view, his advice was to not blow that situation.

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The Atlanta Braves should become the Atlanta Hammers

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The death of Henry Aaron shocked and saddened the baseball world last Friday. Aaron was a giant, a tremendous player and steward of the game who pushed back against the very racism he encountered during his playing career in his days as an executive with the Braves as well. Paying tribute to the man isn’t easy — in fact, some paying tribute to him end up just being insulting or dismissive of what he actually went through and felt, leaving others to clean up those messes — but there are certainly ways to do so. The Braves, the team Aaron spent decades with in both Milwaukee and Atlanta, have an opportunity for a long-lasting tribute to the man: rename the team the Hammers.

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Some voters want to revoke their Hall of Fame votes for Curt Schilling

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I wasn’t planning on writing about this year’s Baseball Hall of Fame vote results in this space, but then, something wonderful happened: some voters reportedly reached out to Cooperstown in the hopes of having their ballots changed so that they no longer were voting for Curt Schilling. The last straw, as it were, via Matt Spiegel, came because Schilling supported those storming the Capitol back on January 6:

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The Cleveland Indians will finally get a new name

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It was a positive, on its own, that the NFL’s Washington franchise changed their name from one with a slur against Native Americans to the temporary “Washington Football Team.” There was also a potential trickle-down effect to look forward to, though, as, if even the franchise run by Dan Snyder could change their name and the culture of racism and appropriation that swirled around it, then it should be motivating for others with comparatively innocuous names like the Kansas City Chiefs and Cleveland Indians to do something about their own issues.

That appears to be what has happened now, as Kansas City took steps in August to remove some racist elements from their stadium and game environment, and now we’ve got Cleveland finally admitting that it’s time to find a new name for their team. According to the New York Times, Cleveland will still retain its current name in 2021, but could shift away from it as early as the 2022 season. No other details are known at this point, as the team hasn’t announced their intentions yet, but are expected to sometime this week.

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Peter Ueberroth doesn’t deserve the passive voice

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The Society for American Baseball Research is 50 years old, and to celebrate, they’re putting together all kinds of lists 50 entries long. One such list is the top 50 Off-Field figures in MLB history, and I just want to start things out by saying I’m very into the idea of this. Seeing Roger Angell, Claire Smith, Marvin Miller, and yes, the San Diego Chicken receive recognition in the same list is a lot of fun! There is an entry that made me double-take, though — not because of the person’s inclusion, which is absolutely merited. But because of how they were presented within it:

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WWE might have finally pushed their workers too far

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World Wrestling Entertainment has long trampled on workers’ rights without anyone in the labor movement so much as lifting a finger in opposition. Their classification of workers as independent contractors isn’t new by any means, and neither is the lack of benefits for their performers, but WWE was basically left alone to do what they wished in this regard for decades. Now, though, they might have pushed too far, as the Screen Actors Guild is finally taking notice, and promising to begin protecting WWE’s independent contractors.

What brought on this sudden change in approach? That would be the firing of Zelina Vega, real name Thea Trinidad, for her refusal to hand over the keys to her Twitch account to WWE. Per a new edict from the world’s largest wrestling company, the third-party streaming accounts hosted by services like Twitch were actually under the jurisdiction of WWE: the plan, going forward, was to control those accounts, negotiate advertising partnerships themselves, and then divvy up the money generated by those platforms between WWE and the performers themselves. This is, in short, theft, as explained earlier this year:

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