A’s minor leaguers can’t afford to play home games

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Back in June, I wrote about how Cardinals’ minor leaguers were struggling to pay for their hotels during home games — that they were spending more than they were making on homestands, even while staying at a discounted hotel. It certainly was not a situation unique to those Cardinals’ farmhands, just given the math involved in paying for a hotel for home games while making a salary well below the poverty line, but St. Louis’ minor leaguers were one of the first to speak out anonymously and with a team-level identifier attached.

Now, some Oakland A’s minor leaguers are saying the same thing is happening to them. Alex Schultz at the SFGATE wrote about how A’s minor leaguers playing for Single-A Stockton can’t afford to pay for a hotel during home games, even though the A’s got a bulk discount at one. The situation is the same as it was for the Cardinals’ players highlighted in June: thanks to coronavirus protocols during the pandemic, not being able to stay with host families, or stuff six of themselves into a three-bedroom apartment to rent at a severe discount, is sucking up what little pay the players usually manage to take home.

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Round-up: All-Stars’ labor priorities, and the A’s stadium plan vote

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The ongoing collective bargaining negotiations between Major League Baseball and the Players Association have not been public to this point, which should not be a huge surprise. It’s just July, and the current CBA doesn’t expire until December. Plus, we just had a whole lot of public negotiating going on before the 2020 season, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic moving negotiations ahead of schedule: the PA didn’t seem like they wanted to go public at all until MLB forced their hand there, while MLB itself probably decided to rein things in a bit given how their extremely public, pandemic-related posturing went over — as one of my dad’s favorite sayings goes — about as well as a fart in church.

So yes, things have been quiet, with the only public knowledge at this point basically being that the two sides are in fact talking things over. The 2021 All-Star Game was last week, though, which means media availability for a whole bunch of high-profile players, many of whom were asked questions about what it is they want out of a new CBA. What struck me while reading about this was the uniformity of the answers: the players aren’t discussing the actual details of CBA talks, of course, but they seem pretty unified in terms of what it is they’re looking for out of a new CBA, in a general sense.

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Taxes are one more reason you can’t trust MLB owners crying poor

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Once Major League Baseball’s pandemic-shortened 2020 season came to an end, the financial leaks began. MLB wanted you to know they had lost money, so much money, and that it was going to impact them in so many ways for years to come — just something to keep in mind as collective bargaining came closer to center stage, you know? You couldn’t trust MLB crying poor back in October, and you couldn’t trust it in December, either, when team sources kept leaking unbelievable figures to journalists like Bill Madden, in the hopes of convincing everyone that these folks were truly going through something because there were fewer games played and no tickets sold for the 2020 season.

As I said at the time to counter Madden’s doom and gloom:

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Advocating for minor leaguers works

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​When Advocates for Minor Leaguers formed back in early 2020, the idea was to give minor-league baseball players a voice. Fear for job security, fear of having no one in their corner, fear of retribution: all of these have kept minor leaguers silent, even in the face of horrible living conditions, working conditions, and exploitation. What Advocates for Minor Leaguers hoped to do, then, was give these players an outlet with which to share their issues with the public, anonymously if needed, and let pressure mount from there to force change to occur.

It’s been successful thus far, with issues large and larger pointed out by Advocates for Minor Leaguers across the last year-plus, the latest of which is the lack of pay for players in extended spring training. As of less than one week ago, just over one-third of the league bothered to pay players in extended spring training: that’s right, loads of minor-league players who just went through spring training unpaid but didn’t get assigned to a full-season squad are continuing to play and work daily on the diamond, but for free.

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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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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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