Please don’t try to rehabilitate Jeff Luhnow

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

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:

Continue reading “Please don’t try to rehabilitate Jeff Luhnow”

The Phillies reportedly reprimanded minor leaguers for wearing solidarity wristbands

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

“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.

Continue reading “The Phillies reportedly reprimanded minor leaguers for wearing solidarity wristbands”

On MLB teams refusing to assist with minor-league housing

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

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.)

Continue reading “On MLB teams refusing to assist with minor-league housing”

On one way to challenge the legitimacy of the MLB Draft

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

On Wednesday, Baseball Prospectus published my latest feature, “The MLB Draft is an Unnecessary Relic of the Past.” The events surrounding Mets’ first-round pick Kumar Rocker made it topical, sure, but did not force the arguments made within to exist: those arguments are longstanding, recent (and recent-ish) goings on more like further ammunition for said arguments than anything. As was written in this space a couple of years ago now, drafts are indefensible, unless you’re a team owner.

A subscription is required to read the whole Prospectus feature, so just in case you need the background on where I’m about to go with this, it’s about how if the draft once had a legitimizing purpose that helped the game, and not just line owner’s pockets, it no longer does: thanks to revenue-sharing, lucrative television contracts even for teams you wouldn’t want if you didn’t have to, and a streamlined and shrunken minor-league system, there is no real reason why, say, the Pirates can’t go toe-to-toe with a financial juggernaut like the Yankees when it comes to acquiring amateur talent on an open market.

Continue reading “On one way to challenge the legitimacy of the MLB Draft”

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

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

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.

Continue reading “A’s minor leaguers can’t afford to play home games”

Advocating for minor leaguers works

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

​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.

Continue reading “Advocating for minor leaguers works”

MiLB players can barely afford their hotel and meals, even after pay increase

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. Sign up to receive articles like this one in your inbox here.

​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:

Continue reading “MiLB players can barely afford their hotel and meals, even after pay increase”

On doctoring baseballs

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.​

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.

Continue reading “On doctoring baseballs”

Something doesn’t add up in A’s apology for dismal minor-league meals

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.​

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.

Continue reading “Something doesn’t add up in A’s apology for dismal minor-league meals”

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

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.​

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:

Continue reading “One minor-league team hopes you don’t realize how sources work”