Please don’t try to rehabilitate Jeff Luhnow

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Listen, I understand what the New York Post’s Joel Sherman was going for in a recent piece on the Astros, I really do. He tried to couch it all, and repeatedly, in language that protected him from saying the sign-stealing the Astros performed in 2017 was acceptable. His goal was instead to point out that what Jeff Luhnow built was more than a team that stole signs through an elaborate ploy involving technology en route to a World Series championship. And that’s true! Jeff Luhnow, as general manager of the Astros, did help build a team that continues to be competitive to this day, even two years removed from his direct influence at the top of baseball operations.

Here’s Sherman on Luhnow:

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The Phillies reportedly reprimanded minor leaguers for wearing solidarity wristbands

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“The Phillies should know they’re being watched.” This is what the executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, Henry Marino, told USA Today earlier this week, in response to the Phillies reportedly reprimanding minor-league players for wearing solidarity wristbands during the final game of the regular season.

The wrist bands, which are available to the public in exchange for a $10 donation to Advocates for Minor Leaguers, were used by the players to raise awareness of the terrible working and living conditions that minor-league players toil under. The Phillies did not appreciate the players standing up for themselves, nor bringing attention to their plight, and so, the players were reprimanded, according to the players themselves, who alerted Advocates about the situation.

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Be mindful of why you’re seeing leaks from MLB collective bargaining

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As more news of the ongoing collective bargaining between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association comes out, it’s important to remember that the news itself is part of the negotiation process. Leaks come out about salary negotiations and free agent discussions every winter with specific intent, not just so fans have something to pass the time with, and the talks between MLB and its players are no different.

A central part of two of my more recent Baseball Prospectus features touched on this: both were reactions to reported leaks from this year’s collective bargaining, and were I a betting man, I’d wager that both leaks came from MLB’s side. For one, the PA actively attempts to avoid leaks — remember just last year, when the PA only entered into the negotiation leaking game to put a stop to MLB’s tidal wave of negative info dumping? That’s how they operate, keeping the negotiations private as intended until they’re pushed to a point where doing so is no longer tactically sound. MLB, on the other hand, is constantly waging a public relations battle and thinking a number of moves ahead; ergo, they leak just enough to further whatever their goal happens to be. And second, both pieces of reporting assumed the reaction from the players’ side, without even an anonymous quote to go on. If one side isn’t talking, or isn’t giving you anything on the record, that’s what you’re going to have to do.

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(Curt) Flood the Hall

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Marvin Miller is now officially in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and your mileage may vary on how happy his extremely — extremely — belated induction to that institution made you. One thing I think we could all agree on, though, is that Curt Flood deserves to be in Cooperstown, too: and yet, he is not. Flood, who fought against Major League Baseball’s reserve clause to the detriment of his own career, was a labor pioneer for the sport, and his role in helping to establish free agency in MLB cannot be overstated even if he didn’t get to experience its benefits for himself. Continue reading “(Curt) Flood the Hall”

Marvin Miller is finally being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame

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It’s happening decades after it should have, but Marvin Miller will finally be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on September 8, 2021. Honestly, I’m torn about the whole thing, and have been since before he was even elected back in late-2019 — if you’ll recall, inductions for the 2020 class were delayed until 2021, thanks to that whole coronavirus pandemic thing; so, Miller is being inducted alongside the 2021 class, as well.

Marvin Miller deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, of course: he’s easily one of the most influential and towering figures in the history of the sport, and you could certainly make an argument that he’s at the very top of that list, too. Look no further than the current state of the seemingly powerless, union-less Minor League Baseball for evidence of what a modern-day MLB without the influence of one Marvin Miller might look like. And yet, the man himself did not want to be enshrined in Cooperstown. And it feels like we’ve all kind of just glossed over that part more than we should have, amid the celebrations for his election and induction.

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On Saturday, Giants’ concession workers to vote on strike

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Major League Baseball has mostly hit a point where, sometimes, players test positive for coronavirus, and everyone just moves on. The impacted players hit the injured list designated specifically for COVID-19, call-ups are made to fill the roster holes left by the virus, and everything continues otherwise unabated. It’s basically been treated like any other injury, which apparently works well enough for the players who are, by and large, vaccinated, but the normalization of how coronavirus works for them has helped obscure that those with less in the way of means and without the same spotlight are struggling and living in fear of contracting the virus.

Look no further than concessions workers for Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. These workers, who are part of UNITE HERE Local 2 that represents thousands of workers in the San Francisco and San Mateo areas of California, will hold a vote on Saturday prior to the Giants’ game against the Dodgers, to determine whether or not they’re going on strike. Their demands? Hazard pay, and recognition from the Giants that they have helped to create an unsafe work environment for them, one where COVID protocols are not enforced — hence the hazard pay demand. More than 20 concessions workers have contracted coronavirus since returning to work at Oracle Park back in June.

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On MLB teams refusing to assist with minor-league housing

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It’s pretty clear at this point in the Minor League Baseball season that a number of MLB teams simply do not care that there are minor leaguers losing money, or sleeping in the clubhouse, or in cars. It’s nearly September — the season will go on a little longer than usual, instead of it ending in a few days, due to the coronavirus-related delay at the start of the year — and these teams have done nothing to ease these burdens, even though they could. Given the date on the calendar, it’s fair to assume that these teams are just hoping the problem goes away when the 2021 season does, so they’ve got their fingers in their ears and are pretending they can’t hear a thing.

They could provide retroactive back pay and housing stipends for players, as the Washington Nationals did for their minor-league players one week ago, as the San Francisco Giants did before then. Advocates for Minor Leaguers have been pushing for year-round pay throughout the season, for teams to pay players for time spent in extended spring training, for stipends to help pay for housing, and for more significant meal coverage. Some teams, like the Nats and Giants, have conceded that these are necessary measures, and deployed them. Others, like the Oakland A’s, have said nothing, except for when they had a chance to pretend that actually, the meals problem had already been fixed. (It had not.)

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On the proposed MLB salary floor and messaging

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Surprised that MLB’s owners proposed a salary floor all on their own during the current collective bargaining sessions with the Players Association? I was a little taken aback, too, but as I wrote on Friday for Baseball Prospectus, just because the owners proposed a salary floor doesn’t mean they actually want one. What they do want is for you — fans, media, etc. — to believe that they do want one, and that it’s necessary. Which it is, of course, but not in the way MLB is proposing.

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On trading cards, player likenesses, and the funding of the MLBPA

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The news that MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and their three respective player unions all got together with Fanatics to completely rearrange the sports trading card world seems to have shaken that world. I’ll leave the concerns about quality control and that Fanatics hasn’t ever made cards before to those who know trading cards, but this news still presented an opportunity for me to dive into something labor-related from the past.

The history of baseball cards and the Major League Baseball Players Association is tightly interwoven. There is even an entire chapter dedicated to the business of baseball cards in the memoir of the PA’s legendary former Executive Director, Marvin Miller. And that’s because it was through baseball cards that the Players Association was initially able to fund itself and its actions — a necessity for a group set to challenge those with pockets as deep as even the owners of Miller’s day:

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Better Know a Commissioner: William Eckert

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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.

Ford Frick was not pushed out of office like his predecessor, Happy Chandler, but when he retired in 1965, Major League Baseball’s team owners were still unsure of exactly what direction they should go in for their next commissioner. Frick, the former National League president, had come from within the game itself, whereas Chandler and the first-ever commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, came from outside of it.

This was not a decision that the owners took lightly: there were more than 150 candidate names on the list the owners compiled of potential replacements for Frick. One of these people is one you’ve seen written about — and derisively! — in these digital pages again and again: Robert Cannon. Cannon was a judge who was advising the fledgling Players Association, mostly by telling them to be happy about what crumbs the owners left them with and to not rock the proverbial boat. Cannon wasn’t just some rando on that list of 150, as he came within a single vote of becoming MLB commissioner, but he lost that race to retired United States Army general William Eckert.

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